More sunshine on fund-raisers Campaign cash: Year-round Md. political events require frequent reports, donor I.D.

July 16, 1996

GOV. PARRIS Glendening has raised large sums of money at exclusive $1,000-a-ticket soirees. He's mum, for now, on the donors and the amount. House Speaker Casper Taylor held a $250-a-ticket event at Martin's West that drew 800 people. But he doesn't have to tell the public who gave how much until Thanksgiving week.

Maryland's campaign finance law is flawed. Politicians can hide from public view details of their fund-raising efforts. Only once a year do candidates file reports in nonelection years. It is a loophole politicians use to their advantage.

Campaigning is so expensive that incumbents raise money nonstop. No longer do they wait to solicit donors until a few months before the election. State legislators in important posts have been especially anxious to sponsor annual events that draw lobbyists and business leaders eager to stay in their good graces.

Donor contributions are kept secret, though. For instance, how many people affiliated with ABC Slot Machines bought tickets to Mr. Taylor's bash? How many developers shelled out $1,000 to dine with the governor? The answers could shed light on actions an official takes.

Maryland's election law is outdated. Once-a-year reports are totally inadequate. The lack of specific identification of donors leaves a gaping hole in the public's data bank.

With the U.S. Supreme Court raising major doubts about the legality of any campaign contribution limits, it is essential to illuminate all aspects of political fund-raising.

Candidates should file campaign reports every month in

nonelection years and biweekly in an election year. State officials should file weekly updates during the General Assembly session so the public can clearly see if a lobbyist or an interest group is trying to gain influence. Statewide officials should be compelled to file fund-raising reports frequently during the year.

Most officials don't abuse election laws. Yet they take the heat when their colleagues go too far. A good remedy is lots of sunlight on fund-raising. Openness and public access to this data is the best way for politicians to improve their image. Secrecy and "mystery" donors only re-enforce the notion that something sneaky is going on.

Pub date: 7/16/96

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