Anti-smoking, anti-Henson group to reveal funding

Daily Record Business Writer//June 12, 2014

Anti-smoking, anti-Henson group to reveal funding

By Bryan P. Sears

//Daily Record Business Writer

//June 12, 2014

An anti-smoking group that targeted one Senate candidate over his stance on increasing the tobacco tax will disclose how much it raised and spent in the effort.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said his group will file the disclosures in response to questions raised by The Daily Record.

“We’re going to file everything we need to file by Friday,” DeMarco said.

The anti-smoking group announced Wednesday a radio and mail campaign highlighting Julius Henson’s opposition to increasing the tobacco tax. Henson is challenging five-term incumbent Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore, in the Democratic primary in the 45th District.

The one-minute spot playing on local radio highlights McFadden’s support of tobacco taxes used to expand government health care and teen smoking cessation efforts, calling the senator “a strong advocate for quality, affordable health care.”

The commercial goes on to call Henson “a political hired gun caught trying to suppress the black vote to benefit the Republicans”— a reference to Henson’s political consulting work for Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The ad finishes with “You need someone you can trust, and that’s Sen. Nathaniel McFadden.”

A related mailing sent to voters in the 45th District features a pre-teen girl holding a cigarette and repeats statements made in the radio commercial.

DeMarco, in an initial interview, said the campaign was paid for by funds raised by a 501(c)(4) organization controlled by Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative. He estimated the cost of the campaign at $20,000.

He declined to provide exact figures on what was spent or who contributed to the fund.

“We have a donor base of individuals, businesses and unions who support our efforts,” DeMarco said.

Under current law, 501(c)(4) committees are typically not required disclose information related to donors and expenditures.

In Maryland, those organizations do have to disclose independent expenditures — those done without coordination with a candidate — including so-called educational or advocacy campaigns.

The organizations also have to disclose donors if they were solicited with the specific purpose of contributing money to a specific advocacy effort, according to Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The reporting requirements are triggered when a group spends $10,000 or more for activities that are within 60 days of an election. The laws will become stricter in 2015, when organizations will be required to report activities within 48 hours of a qualifying expenditure.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, applauded the decision by Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative to file reports disclosing information on the advertising campaign.

“It’s especially important this time year during an election,” Bevan-Dangel said. “Otherwise, the public has no way of knowing who is paying for the ad, why they are paying for it or if they can even trust the source.”

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