Miller uses apparent loophole to avoid spending disclosure

October 27, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has found an apparent loophole that permits him to avoid disclosing which candidates his "super-slate" of Democratic senators is supporting with $240,000 in direct-mail spending.

In a campaign finance report filed Friday, the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee showed the slate has spent $240,000 of the $643,334 it has collected on payments to a direct-mail company, Sheingold Associates of Sacramento, Calif.

The slate has been controversial since the Senate president formed it last year to defend Democratic control of the upper chamber of the General Assembly. Republicans charged it was a device to evade limits on the amount of money that can be transferred between campaign treasuries.

The committee had been expected to concentrate its resources on a few closely contested races. But the report lists no payments to individual Senate campaigns after the primary.

Nothing on the campaign finance report form requires that the slate break down its direct-mail expenditures campaign by campaign, and it does not do so.

The omission is legal, according to the state election board. Ross Goldstein, deputy director, said he is not aware of anything in the law that requires a committee to list the purpose of a mailing.

Kathleen Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland, said the omission is an attempt to bypass spending disclosure requirements. She noted this provision of the state election law: "No transfer of any kind, in any amount, is permitted if it is intended to conceal the true identity of the actual contributor or the identity of any intended recipient."

Miller said the slate has fully complied with all disclosure requirements. The Prince George's Democrat defended the way rTC the spending was listed, saying, "It's certainly not meant to hide."

He listed the names of nine candidates, including himself, who he said are principal beneficiaries.

They include Michael J. Collins and Edward J. Kasemeyer in Baltimore County, Thomas V. Mac Middleton in Charles County, Walter M. Baker in Cecil County, John C. Astle in Anne Arundel County, Jennie M. Forehand in Montgomery County and Don Fry and Mary Louise Preis in Harford County. All are incumbents except Preis.

By lumping its spending together as payments to a direct-mail company, the committee has managed to deny Republican Senate candidates political intelligence from the report.

Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the House minority leader, said he had expected Miller to evade scrutiny by transferring the money to candidates after the last reporting deadline before the election.

"We didn't think he'd hide it this way," he said. "We thought he'd wait until after the November election. Now we won't even know after the election."

Not necessarily, said Miller.

However, he would not commit himself to releasing information before Election Day.

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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