GOP accuses DeGrange of finance irregularities Illegal transfer of funds by Democrats alleged

Campaign 1998

October 28, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Joyce Lyons Terhes, the state Republican Party chairwoman, has accused Democrat James DeGrange, 32nd District Senate candidate, and a fund-raising committee set up by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller of campaign financing irregularities.

She charged yesterday that Miller's Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee has transferred to DeGrange's campaign committee more than the $6,000 legally allowed and that none of the transfers shows up on DeGrange's campaign finance report.

Terhes asked Secretary of State John T. Willis to seek a court order to stop the transfers.

Terhes said she doesn't know how much allegedly was transferred, but she said at least three mailings jointly authorized by the Miller and DeGrange committees cost more than $6,000.

DeGrange denied the allegations but said a campaign worker was checking to make sure he was properly registered to receive the money.

Signed months ago

The senatorial committee, formed by Miller last year, is permitted to transfer unlimited amounts of money and assistance to candidates listed as slate members and up to $6,000 to others.

DeGrange said he signed the required papers months ago to join the slate and that campaign workers were to have filed them with the state elections board. DeGrange's name is not among the 27 listed by the senatorial committee in election board records.

"We're looking into that at this time," DeGrange said. "I know that we've done everything we were required to do by law."

The most recent filing by the senatorial committee lists no transfers to individual candidates' committees, prompting charges by Terhes that Miller is taking advantage of legal loopholes to avoid disclosure.

Three mailings

The Republican allegations stem from at least three mailings that assail GOP incumbent Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks of Severn -- DeGrange's opponent -- for his 1995 bankruptcy filing, for his votes on legislation affecting the tobacco industry, for liquor board appointments he has made and for judicial appointments he has supported.

Two of the mailings were paid for by DeGrange's committee and the senatorial committee. One lists only the senatorial committee's treasurer, Oden Bowie, as authorizing it.

According to the latest reports filed with the board, the largest transfers DeGrange listed are $4,024 from Team 32, also a slate; $1,600 from Anne Arundel Firepac; $1,220 from Committee to Elect George F. Johnson; and $1,000 from Friends of Diane R. Evans.

The documents list in-kind contributions of $2,439, consisting of the value of catering, cakes and door prizes donated to the campaign.

DeGrange's campaign paid $40,000 for direct mailings by Sheingold Associates, a California company that also received $240,000 from the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee. DeGrange said the mailings were a joint project of the two committees.

'Hidden slush fund'

Middlebrooks called the arrangement between the committees a "hidden slush fund" and said they came after DeGrange highlighted Middlebrooks' filing a campaign finance report late.

"Shame on them," he said. "It goes to the issue of character and integrity in running an election and complying with the laws."

Bowie, the senatorial committee treasurer, said he had not heard of the allegations and that the report delivered to the state board of elections Friday "as far as I know is 100 percent correct."

State law requires committees to list in-kind contributions they receive unless they had no knowledge of the expenditures, said Rebecca Wicklund, director of candidacy and campaign finance with the state elections board.

In his latest filing, Middlebrooks listed $6,000 in transfers from the Maryland Trial Lawyers PAC, in addition to several smaller transfers from other groups.

DeGrange has raised nearly $194,000 to Middlebrooks' $48,335.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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