Yesterday this gem came to my attention via my inbox. It’s from Ken Timmerman, who’s the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar.
You may have heard Charles say it: if elections in Maryland were only about the money, Michael Steele would be our U.S. Senator.
He outraised Ben Cardin by a good margin in 2006 – and lost.
Political commentators were making the same mistake today in the news reports about this candidate qualifying for public financing, and that candidate not.
Here’s the dirty secret about public financing in Maryland: it actually handicaps a campaign in the general election.
That’s right. Any Republican campaign for governor that accepts public financing will be limited in how much they can raise and spend.
Don’t believe what some candidates are telling you about their ability to get millions of dollars from these public funds – which they absurdly claim are not taxpayer dollars.
Here is the truth: any campaign that accepts public funds is limited to total spending of $2,586,124.21 – and that amount includes so-called matching funds they get from the taxpayer.
Don’t take my word for it: click here to read the rules on public financing from the State Board of Elections.
Bob Ehrlich raised over $10 million in 2006 – and still lost.
We expect will raise $6 million for the general election, and probably more.
Because we have run a lean campaign, leveraging the sweat equity of our volunteer army over the past 18 months, we expect to do much more than other campaigns with less money.
We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race – money that will not be available to a candidate limited to the $2.6 million spending cap imposed by the state as a condition to receive public financing.
I hope I’ve been clear enough in explaining this. A candidate who accepts publc (sic) financing will lose in November because of that hard spending cap, which includes money spent by associated groups.
Charles and I need your help now to win the June 24 primary, because we know we can win in November.
We can win in November because we have been laying the groundwork these past 18 months in Democrat strongholds – something none of our Republican competitors have not done.
You can’t start reaching out to Democrats after the primary and expect them to listen. We have already built those relationships, and have Democrats for Lollar in Baltimore City, the Eastern shore, and in Prince Georges and Montgomery counties. Some of these groups are campaigning for us openly, and some of them waiting until after the primary to support us.
So, don’t believe the hype. Join us for the real deal.
I probably didn’t need to add the final half-dozen paragraphs, particularly with the misspelling and glaring double negative (proofreading is your friend!) but my reading of the law confirms what Ken says – regardless of what others may say, this is the expenditure limit. The seed money certification also reads:
Furthermore, we certify that we will not expend in either the primary or the general election an amount in excess of the maximum spending limitation set forth by Election Law Article §15-105.
The prescribed amount was originally 30 cents for every resident in the state, but adjusted for inflation works out to the $2.6 million or so. However, the hook that could save Hogan is this line:
A gubernatorial ticket that accepts a public contribution from the Fund for an election…
Let’s say Hogan accepts the $275,000 he’s eligible for in the primary and wins. As I read it, the cycle begins anew with the general election because they’re considered separate entities. If he doesn’t take a dollar once the general election cycle begins one reading of the law would suggest that he has no spending limit. It’s an issue which would probably be dragged into court, sapping resources from Hogan at a time when he’s trying to challenge a well-funded Democrat (unless fellow public finance participant Heather Mizeur somehow secures that nomination.)
In any case, it would only make a further mockery of the public financing system which is enriching a heretofore primarily self-funded campaign. But I also want to turn my attention to the fundraising prowess Timmerman claims – if only Charles can get through the primary.
This may seem like a stupid question, but if there are outside groups willing to fork over that much money wouldn’t you think they could spare a half-million to get Charles through the primary? After all, I get e-mail every day touting a challenger here, a TEA Party favorite there…granted, these are generally for seats in Congress but would it not be a feather in someone’s camp to upset the establishment and elect a black conservative governor in Maryland? Yet I haven’t seen those appeals or that funding – perhaps it’s lost with Ben Carson’s endorsement. (On that note, if Carson endorsed Lollar’s health care plan, as Charles has claimed, wouldn’t you think it would be a prominent issue on his campaign site?)
Having said all that, if Charles loses on June 24 I hope he’s front and center at the June 26 unity dinner promising to continue spreading the message in those minority areas about the benefits of conservatism. It’s the one asset he’s brought to the campaign, and the trick is to make it a transferable one. Timmerman pointed this out about Michael Steele who, despite the racial component, still lost badly in minority-dominated areas to a white Democrat. (Steele only received about 7,000 more votes in Prince George’s County – his home territory – than Bob Ehrlich did. Both were swamped there by lopsided margins.)
All of us know we need to do better in those areas to have a chance to elect Republicans, but I’m also sure the Democrats will do what they do best and play the race card. Lollar’s outreach has to be the beginning of a process spanning several election cycles, and not the end.