Kamenetz transfers $90,000 to Councilman Olszewski
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 15:14

Campaign finance reports show that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz transfered $90,000 to outgoing 7th District Councilman John Olszewski Sr.file photo  by Roland Dorsey

State Board of Elections says move is legal

by Ben Boehl

    In the wake of the latest campaign finance reports, many are questioning actions taken by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
    Kamenetz is on a campaign slate with outgoing 7th District Councilman John Olszewski Sr., and  the recent reports show that Kamenetz’s campaign transferred $90,000 over to Olszewski’s campaign committee on Jan. 21.
    The obvious question is why an active incumbent would transfer that amount of money to an incumbent who is not seeking re-election?
    Olszewski announced back on Nov. 2 that he would not seek re-election.
    Kevin Fulton of the Kamenetz campaign was unavailable for comment.
    The situation is reminiscent of 2010, when then-County Executive Jim Smith’s second term was coming to a close and he decided not to seek another elective office.
    At the time, Smith and other prominent Democrats had a committee called “Baltimore County Victory Slate.”
    Smith had $1 million in his campaign treasury and was allowed to transfer his remaining funds to active Democrat candidates  throughout the county and the state.
    While individual candidates must have their own campaign committees, they may also form “slate” committees with other candidates, functioning essentially as a ticket and allowing wide latitude in financial transfers between members of the slate.
    According to Jared DeMarinis, Director of the Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division at the Maryland Board of Elections, a candidate can transfer money to a slate and the slate can transfer money over to a candidate.
    “Once you are a candidate on a slate, you are considered a candidate and you don’t have to appear on the ballot,” DeMarinis said, referring to the Olszewski situation.    
    Olszewski’s campaign account is still active — with $192,790.66 in his account — and records show he has spent just $19,842.24 between Jan. 9 to May 20.
    Olszewski has given House of Delegates candidate Ed Crizer two separate transfers of $3,000,  as well as $1,000 to House candidate Eric Washington and $3,000 to County Council candidate Ron Yeatman. Olszewski has endorsed all three candidates. He has also transferred money to other Democrats outside of the district.
    Mitchell S. Butta, chairman of the Olszewski campaign, could not be reached for comment before press time.
    The transfer of funding from Kamenetz to Olszewski has received some criticism.
    Todd Crandell, a Republican candidate for the council seat Olszewski is vacating, has been critical of Olszewski in the past, but said he is also unhappy with the current campaign finance laws that allow such actions.
    “This is the machine at work. But I think voters are tired of these games and want independent-thinking representatives, not ones bought and paid for by special interests,” Crandell said.
    “This is another indication that our next generation of political leaders needs to do a serious review of campaign finance laws and bring about true reform. We need leaders in office, not puppets.”
    C.O. “Bud” Staigerwald, a Democrat running for the council, also said he is unhappy with the Kamenetz transfer to Olszewski and is concerned that Olszewski will help some of Staigerwald’s opponents in the primary.
    “I don’t know why they need that type of money. They are trying to put a stranglehold on the community,”  he said.