Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Del. Jill P. Carter, D-Baltimore. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Carter among legislators in limbo over campaign finance fines

Three lawmakers are at risk of not being sworn in Wednesday, when the 2015 General Assembly begins its 90-day session, for failure to clear up fines owed to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The three delegates — all Democrats — owe fines to the board for a failure to file timely campaign finance reports as required by law.

Topping the list is Del. Jill P. Carter, D-Baltimore City. Carter, who filed five reports on Monday, still owes $1,250 in late fees. The fines represent the maximum $250 allowed under the law for each of the five late reports.

Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said that the board cannot issue the certificate required to be sworn in until a winning candidate for any state or local office is current on all reports and paperwork.

“Filing the reports only stays the accumulation of penalties,” DeMarinis said.

Carter did not respond to requests for an interview.

Filing reports late is not a new occurrence for Carter, who has been tardy on all 23 reports due since 2006 and incurred $4,200 in fines. Carter filed four reports on Jan. 16, 2013, in order to clear up her eligibility to run for re-election.

Del. Benjamin S. Barnes, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, who is entering his third term, owes $520 in late fees for three reports, including two of which he filed on Monday.

Since 2006, Barnes’ campaign committee has filed all 13 required reports late, incurring a total of $2,280 in fines, including the amount current owed to the board.

Barnes did not return a call from a reporter seeking comment.

Angela Angel, D-Prince George’s County and an incoming freshman, owes $20.

Three other legislators cleared their outstanding fines up on Monday afternoon: Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, who owed $450;  Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr., D-Montgomery County, who owed $50; and  Del. Barbara A. Frush, D-Anne Arundel County, who owed $30.

State election law prohibits candidates from taking the oath of office if they fail to file their campaign finance reports or fail to pay the associated late fees. The prohibition means that the six lawmakers would not be able to be sworn in on Wednesday with their colleagues and they would not be eligible to sit on the floor, collect hotel, meal or mileage per diems or assume any other duties of the office until the fines are paid.

Under the law applicable prior to Jan. 1, candidates who failed to file were subject to a fine of $10 per day with a maximum of $250 per report. That fine will go up to a maximum of $500 for the annual report that is due in about two weeks.

Candidates will be able to take advantage of one change in the law that went into effect on Jan. 1. They can now use their campaign accounts to pay the fines rather than pay out of their own pocket.

Not everyone is happy with allowing candidates to pay late fees from their accounts.

“People donate with the intent of helping a candidate get elected, not to pay for their transgressions,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

Bevan-Dangel said she was surprised and disappointed to learn that some legislators had outstanding fines.

“It shows a lack of attention to the campaign finance laws,” she said. “That’s an injustice to the citizens and other candidates.”