Franchot calls for real-time campaign finance disclosure

September 18, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Comptroller Peter Franchot urged Gov. Martin O'Malley and the General Assembly Tuesday to move to a system of immediate online disclosure of political donations and spending -- contending it would improve the transparency of government in Maryland.

Franchot, who is widely considered a likely candidate for governor in 2014, told a Constitution Day gathering at Goucher College that last month's special legislative session on gambling expansion exposed the flaws in the current campaign finance system. Many of the contributions from gambling interests are only becoming public now that the session is over, and some spending reports may not become public until next year.

“We cannot uphold the best progressive traditions of our state, and we certainly cannot do proper justice to the timeless and noble principles that are expressed in our Constitution, until we make a meaningful commitment to transparent government,”  Franchot told the college audience.  “And we cannot do that until we give the people of Maryland the chance to know – on a daily basis -- where and how campaign money is flowing in our political system.” 

Franchot argued that such a system is feasible, pointing to the system implemented in Colorado. The comproller said the posting of real-time financial information has become commonplace and that it can be done with existing technology.

Currently, citizens who are interested in who finances campaign and how the recipients are spending their money in some cases must wait up to a year to gain access to disclosure forms. Franchot said that's too long to wait.

James Browning, mid-Atlantic director for Common Cause, said the watchdog organization supports the concept.

"It's the future," he said. As both the board of elections and campaigns get more sophisticated, it'll be easier to have immediate disclosure."

Whether Franchot's recommendations will carry much weight with the state's top leaders is questionable.

Though both are Democrats, the comptroller has been on the outs with O'Malley for years, and his relations with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have long been less than cordial.

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