Start of session affects fundraising for state officials
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 11:58

Law bars election fundraising while legislature meets

by Ben Boehl

    The move of the traditional September primaries in Maryland to June this year has changed the way candidates — especially incumbents — campaign in the 2014 races.
    With the filing deadline set for Feb. 25, candidates have started their campaigns earlier than in the past.
    That change has affected the fundraising activities of state officeholders.
    Since 1997, state law has barred fundraising by state officials during the 90-day legislative session, which got under way on Jan. 8 and lasts until April 7.
    The rationale for the ban is to combat the influence of campaign contributions during the session.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. said he supports the ban and said the intrigue of the session outweighs the need for incumbents to raise funds during that time.
    “I would say that I support having the ban in place,” Olszewski said.     

“While it presents some obvious fundraising challenges for incumbent legislators, having the ban in place is important to prevent the existence or appearance of impropriety in the legislative work we conduct.” 
    The ban also applies to non-legislative state elected officials such as the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general.
    That has led to some controversy in the governor’s race.
    On the Democratic side, gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Douglas  Gansler and his running mate Del. Jolene Ivey are not allowed to raise money.
    Gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is also prohibited from raising funds, but his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, is not subject to the ban, since he is not a state official. 
    Del. Heather R. Mizeur, the other Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, is also banned from fundraising. Her running mate, Prince George’s County pastor Delman Coates, is like Ulman, unaffected by the ban.
    There is similar controversy for the Republican gubernatorial campaigns as they find themselves facing similar circumstances as gubernatorial candidate David Craig can raise funds over the next 90 days because he is the county executive of Harford County, but his  running mate, Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, cannot raise funds.
    Charles Lollar is another GOP candidate unaffected because he is not in office, but Del. Ron George must stop all fundraising for his gubernatorial bid until after the session.
    In the 6th District, only two legislators will be affected.
    Longtime incumbents state Sen. Norman Stone and Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick are participating in their last session and do not have a campaign to run in 2014.
    The law applies to Del. John Olszewski Jr. who will be seeking the vacant state Senate seat in 2014, but he may not be seriously affected by the rule, as it appears he will not have an opponent in the June Democratic primary.
    However; Del. Michael Weir Jr. is in a contested primary with at least four other Democrats — all non-incumbents who are allowed to raise funds.             Weir was not available for comment.
    Eric Washington, a candidate in that Democratic House race, is permitted to raise funds during the session.
    Washington said that the incumbents should not feel shortchanged since they knew about the law and needed to plan accordingly.
    “As incumbents, they know about the timeline,” Washington said. “I don’t think anyone feels sorry for them. I don’t think it is an issue.”