A novel fundraising approach

Because the General Assembly session begins next Wednesday, a number of local and statewide politicians who cannot legally raise money during the session are cramming fundraisers into the last few days before the session begins. Originally I was going to focus on a luncheon fundraiser being held in Ocean City by Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott on Monday which will feature Congressman Andy Harris.

But at the same time at the BWI Marriott, Delegate (and gubernatorial candidate) Ron George will host what he calls a “Pre-Session Business Legislative Luncheon” with Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group. As is the case for McDermott, Ron’s hosting a fundraiser, and an important one. While others in the gubernatorial race on both sides can still raise funds through various means, Ron would be stymied for 90 days – unless he went through an unusual route, one which fellow Delegate Heather Mizeur is already taking.

A loophole in state campaign finance laws allows guberatorial candidates who accept public financing to raise their “seed money” during the legislative session, and Ron is reportedly considering the idea. It would place a spending cap on his campaign (as it would Mizeur’s) but where Mizeur would be dwarfed in spending by her Democratic primary counterparts who already have millions to spend, George wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the amounts his competitors are expected to raise in the primary.

Campaign finance of a different sort has grabbed the headlines of late, but while Ron George is within his legal right to do so why does he feel like he’s perhaps forced to dip into taxpayer funds to run a campaign? The flip side of pay-to-play – besides limiting the government in an effort to starve the beast – is that I think there should be no restrictions on political giving except one, that being rapid disclosure. This would eliminate the artificial wall of separation between a politician in session and fundraising – do you honestly think a large donor isn’t going to expect his back scratched whether he gives on September 1 when the legislature is off or on March 1 during session?

Interestingly, the campaign finance reform George sponsored last year will allow counties to have their own public campaign financing (see page 39 here). So we may be dealing with more taxpayer financing of campaigns in the future, and not less. Yet we’ll still be stuck with the slow campaign finance reporting process where, for example, a contribution made January 1, 2012 isn’t reported until mid-January the next year. Granted, the reporting pace is faster during election years but still runs weeks to months behind.

We have an internet – why not use it and put campaign treasurers to work supplying us information we can use in a timely fashion?

4 thoughts on “A novel fundraising approach”

  1. Michael, there seems to be a misunderstanding of what is referred to as public financing. It is not tax dollars. It is from the overpayment if taxes that the taxpayer is getting sent back to them (a tax return) where a tax payer may voluntarily agree to give a couple dollars to a fund to fund candidates that agree to limits. It is not one penny of your tax dollars. your money is only used if you voluntarily checked the box onon you tax return form to give this money. It is not tax dollars. If you never checked the box, thenyou never sent money FROM your return to the fund. As the fund grew from these personal donations (not from tax dollars) the dems started to want to use it for other things that we republicans do not agree with so we fought it. If it was GIVEN by a citizen with the promise it is for this purpose, we felt the government had no right to use it for something else. This is not tax money taken from the public. It is money from individuals that checked the box to donate a few dollars go to campaigns out if their returns (overpayment). Usually when we say public fundss we mean tax dollars but that is not,REPEAT, not what this money is.
    Now, first point, Virginia had an election two months ago that was close. A lot Marylanders were asked and hounded to give to that race. They were told Maryland is hopeless, so give to a race you can affect and make a difference. I received those calls myself. Now, second point, Most Republican donors in Maryland want to wait until 2014 to get involved. Now, third point, the primary is moved up to June. My fundraising is taking off now that the virginia race is behind us and 2014 has arrived, yet I will have to stop fundraising. It is not a “loophole” that would allow me to fundraise insuring session. It was meant for this purpose. As a delegate, my ability to fundraise will be limited so I accept limits in the amount I will raise and I receive some money while concentrating on the session.
    I repeat, these are not tax dollars. These are donations from individuals that decided to voluntarily give so minority candidates have a shot against the majority “give money and I will include you in the procurement process” deals of Mr. Brown, Gansler, and O’Malley. I am only considering this but I am surprised how so many assume it is tax dollars. Not all funds from some of the public came from taxing. This one came from donations people chose to give for this purpose.
    Ronald Reagan, Ellen Suerbrey and other Republicans made use of it. In Maryland you are required to get to 258,000 raised in small donations of $250 and leads. That is tough to do. Mizeure did it through national Gay and lesbian groups. My money is grassroots. Almost all from Maryland.
    As for the county “public financing”. It is supposed to be raised and used the same way. So people like you can get into a race against a political machine of power hungry people. The Campaign Finance Commision laws I worked on and got passed do not take effect until 2015 unfortunately. It has much higher donation limits and absolute transparency (something not currently in our state). It will create a level pkaying field for Republicans.
    Business owners have told me that they were punished for donating to Ehrlich and Brown basically tells them to pay now or pay later because (he says) a Republican will not win. That is what the new laws will expose in 2015.
    Again, I am just considering the financing. It was designed for people in my catch 22 position as a legislator running for governor.
    Please forgive any typos as I am typing this on my cell phone.
    Thanks, Ron

  2. Del. George, thanks for the clarification. I have a question, however – how is a law the prohibits one class of people from fundraising while others get to fundraise *unless* the former agree to restrictions on their speech Constitutional?

    Wouldn’t a court challenge be appropriate? Or was this repealed for 2015?

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