Propping up a Republican

I suppose these fall under the category of shrewd political decisions, even though I’m not really on board with them for various reasons.

But a couple days back gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan announced he would use the public financing system in the GOP primary. In exchange for limiting spending during the primary, all a candidate has to do is raise about $260,000 in “seed money” and the state will match individual contributions of $250 or less.

Basically what this has done is box the other GOP contenders into using public financing to keep up, as I’ll explain.

In the GOP primary, it’s doubtful that anyone would spend $2.6 million, particularly when none of the candidates raised more than $250,000 last year and most received much less. Obviously Larry knows this, since he waited to announce and finalize his plans until safely after the January 8 deadline to report 2013 contributions and expenditures. Since Change Maryland’s tentacles extended into the other three campaigns, surely Larry had an inkling how the money was coming in for them. On the other hand, Change Maryland isn’t an entity required to report in the same manner.

So by taking public financing, Hogan essentially doubles his money – maybe not quite, since some will donate over $250. (It might be a great idea for those who really wish to back him to put $250 in the kitty now and save the remaining $3,750 allowed until after the primary.) But in order to match that advantage otherwise, the others in the race will have to follow suit – Ron George has already had this discussion. It might be tougher now in a four-way race.

This is a different approach than Hogan used in his abortive 2010 gubernatorial run, where most of the money he collected and spent was his own. Over the 4 1/2 months Hogan campaigned in 2009-10, he only collected $16,458 in total donations but lent his campaign $325,000 from personal finds. Obviously he’s hoping that the Change Maryland network will be somewhat more successful in netting him the necessary matching funds to maximize the state’s contribution. As part of that effort, Hogan will be hosting a fundraiser with his old boss. More ammunition to those who believe a Hogan candidacy will be Ehrlich’s long-lost second term?

Larry is also using the successful business summit event he did for Change Maryland last year as a fundraising event for his gubernatorial campaign this year. Wonder if everyone who attended last year will be interested in backing the Hogan campaign as an attendee this year?

All in all, I find it most interesting that Larry Hogan is using a technique also adopted by the farthest-left Democrat in the race and endorsed by her political ilk – most of the recent bills attempting to expand public election financing were sponsored exclusively by Democrats. It’s not something most would regard as a conservative cause, and one has to ask: is public financing of campaigns a direction in which we want to change Maryland?

A few years ago Republicans (correctly) fought against early voting because of its potential for fraud, yet later were advised to embrace it by Bob Ehrlich. Is Larry Hogan doing the same with public campaign financing?

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