Maryland campaign finance law up for major reform

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 By

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A Maryland Attorney General’s commission issued a report on campaign finance Tuesday. The recommendations include cutting out loopholes that allow for the equivalent of personal loans from big-time donors. Some of these campaign finance reforms must make their way through the legislature before they take effect.

Issues within Maryland campaign finance

The report issued Tuesday outlines several problems within the Maryland campaign finance system. First, the report recommends limiting the role of Limited Liability Companies. During the last governor’s race, Gov. Bob Ehrlich received $4,000 donations from four LLCs registered at the same address on the same day, suggesting that they were not separate businesses. Political slates, an action of political committees, are also a loophole that allows circumnavigation of the $4,000 per candidate per election per donor individual limit.

Limiting of short-term financing

The last time campaign finance was reformed in Maryland was 1987. Most political campaigns within the state last for less than two years and put out millions of dollars. In order to raise that much money, candidates turn to thousands of individual donors. The majority of the money is intended to come from individual donors. In reality, however, the money mostly comes from LLCs, businesses, and large donors. Millions of dollars come from political committee slate actions, and more millions from LLC donors. Balancing equal political access and the millions of dollars needed for a campaign is, at best, difficult.

Modernizing campaign finance in Maryland

If the campaign finance reforms suggested by the report are implemented in Maryland, there would be more changes than just who can donate. Currently, financial contributions can only be made by check or credit card — not online. Some of the suggestions of the commission report can be implemented without changing Maryland law. The biggest changes to how candidates receive emergency money and standard financing for their campaigns, however, will have to be passed through the legislature.

Sources

Baltimore Sun
WBAL

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