Running mates can be source of cash

Md. rules let `team' collect twice the limit in donations

Maryland Votes 2006

August 16, 2006|By JOHN FRITZE | JOHN FRITZE,SUN REPORTER

They bring a new face to the ticket, new ideas and, possibly, new electoral support from their home turf. But in Maryland, gubernatorial running mates can also bring thousands of dollars in extra campaign cash to the race.

Under a little-known quirk in state election law, candidates for governor are considered separate from their running mates when it comes to raising money, even though the two run as a team.

Donors may give up to $4,000 each to a would-be governor and his or her political partner, in effect doubling the contribution cap imposed on candidates for other state and local offices.

Like troops waiting in reserve for the final days of battle, both Kristen Cox, who is running with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and Anthony G. Brown, who is on the ticket with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, are taking advantage of the provision, keeping thousands of dollars stowed away in their own accounts.

"Technically, they're a separate candidate," Jared DeMarinis, director of the State Board of Elections' Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division, said of lieutenant governor candidates.

Cox, the state disabilities secretary who joined the Ehrlich campaign in June, was expected to report raising about $167,000 in a campaign finance filing that was due to the Board of Elections yesterday.

Brown, a Prince George's County delegate who joined O'Malley in December, is expected to report raising about $512,000 this year.

Some states, such as Virginia and California, elect lieutenant governors separately from the top executive post, which can lead to rivalries within the administration - and sometimes leaders of different parties.

In Maryland, the modern position of lieutenant governor was created by an amendment to the state constitution in 1970, and the person is chosen, and is largely subordinate to, the gubernatorial candidate. Both members of the ticket must be of the same political party.

By law, only $6,000 of the money running mates receive can be transferred to the gubernatorial candidate's account, but nothing prohibits the campaign from paying for mailing, advertisements and other expenses directly from the running mate's account.

Donations to multiple candidates on the same ticket are permitted under state law, according to a 1978 opinion by the attorney general that draws a line between candidates for fundraising purposes even though they are running together.

Campaign records from 2002 show that Ehrlich and his Democratic opponent at the time, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, received dozens of $4,000 contributions to their accounts and those of their running mates.

For example, Daniel Ziff, son of publishing magnate William Ziff Jr., made a $4,000 contribution to Townsend in 2002 and, on the same day, wrote another $4,000 check to a slate committee for Townsend and her running mate, retired Adm. Charles R. Larson. Developer Anthony Manganaro gave $4,000 each to Ehrlich and his then-running mate Michael S. Steele.

More detail on how much both campaigns have raised this year is expected to be available today, when the Board of Elections releases reports showing itemized contributions and expenditures for a number of Maryland races.

This week, the campaigns released fundraising summaries that showed how much has been raised and how much each campaign has at its disposal. O'Malley's alone raised $2.95 million since January, but the campaign's total rises to $3.5 million when Brown's contributions are included. Together, the two will report having $5.1 million in cash on hand.

Ehrlich aides said the governor raised $2.4 million on his own and $2.5 million when Cox's fundraising is included. The Republican campaign has an overall total of $8.7 million in the bank - and kept its edge over O'Malley even though the governor was prohibited by law from raising money during the 90-day General Assembly session.

Both campaigns said fundraising accounts that have been established by their running mates create an opportunity for some supporters to give more than they could if the ticket was considered one entity for campaign finance purposes.

"The lieutenant governor finance committee is another opportunity for Maryland citizens to express their monetary support for the Ehrlich administration's vision for the future," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver.

"The level of excitement that Anthony Brown brings to this campaign is reflected by the numbers," said O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

Bobbie Walton, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, questioned whether the donations are truly separate, suggesting that contributions to a lieutenant governor almost always benefit the top of the ticket.

"The way I look at it, lieutenant governor literature does not go out in the mail," Walton said. "It either features the governor or both of them."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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