State Sen. Brian E. Frosh is dismissing claims that his campaign for attorney general improperly accepted nearly $34,000 in in-kind contributions, saying a glitch in the Maryland State Board of Elections software is responsible for the errors in reporting.
The discrepancies are part of the most recent campaign finance report filed by Frosh, D-Montgomery, late last month.
“The one thing I can assure you of is these are not in-kind contributions,” Frosh said. “They are all bills and I believe they are all paid.”
But the report, filed in late May, and a previous report filed in January, raise questions, according to Del. Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
“As you know the limit for contributions to a campaign, including in-kind contributions is $4,000, so this may be a violation,” Cardin wrote in an email.
Frosh said no violation had occurred and said a “glitch” in the board of elections system resulted in the errors.
“There is a glitch in the software,” Frosh said, adding that his campaign hired a compliance officer to ensure that all campaign finance laws were being followed.
“She contacted the board of elections and, coincidentally, spoke to the auditor as recently as (Wednesday),” Frosh said.
State elections officials were not immediately available for comment.
Frosh leads the three Democratic contenders for the office in terms of cash on hand. In May, Frosh reported having more than $864,000 on hand compared to Cardin’s nearly $486,000. Del. Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, reported having more than $69,000 on hand for the same period.
In Frosh’s May report, three companies were recorded as having given Frosh’s campaign a total of $33,851.25 worth of in-kind contributions for media and political consulting work:
- Bethesda-based The Hatcher Group, $14,039.29
- Portland, Oregon-based Ohlsen Research, $12,500
- Washington D.C.-based Campaign Finance Consultants, $7,291.96
The Hatcher Group also made a $2,000 donation to Frosh’s campaign in December, and the campaign paid the company nearly $2,400 for website management, according to the report.
State campaign finance law limits individuals and corporations to a total of $4,000 in any combination of cash donations and in-kind contributions.
Frosh acknowledged that the reports would be a violation if they were accurate.
“Oh, yeah,” said Frosh. “But they’re not in-kind contributions. They’re bills we paid. These companies did not work for free.”
Frosh said he discussed the entries with his campaign treasurer and initially said the entries were possibly related to invoices received but not paid prior to the closing of the last report on January 8 of this year.
All three companies appear on the previous report for the same amounts. All three are listed as in-kind contributions and not expenses. None of the amounts appears to be reported as expenditures.
“They’re like ghost entries,” Frosh said. “They keep showing up and we can’t make them disappear.”