Fundraising Rule May Hamper Lawmakers’ Ability to Join Gubernatorial Tickets
By Josh Kurtz
Democratic legislators waiting by the phone for an invitation to join a gubernatorial ticket may not want to get their hopes up too high.
A little-known provision in state election law puts restraints on the fundraising activities of joint campaign committees featuring a state legislator.
For years, state officials have been banned from raising campaign cash during the 90-day General Assembly session. That ban extends to the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and all 188 members of the legislature.
Non-incumbent candidates for these offices can continue raising money during the mid-January to mid-April period when the General Assembly is meeting – unless they are serving in one of the other offices for which the ban applies.
So once the 2018 General Assembly session begins on Jan. 10, state Sen. Rich Madaleno, one of the eight Democrats running for governor but the only one serving in the legislature, will not be able to raise money for three months, even though his seven Democratic primary opponents can.
Here’s where aspiring lieutenant governors serving in the legislature may want to dampen their expectations: Gubernatorial campaigns frequently create a second fundraising entity once the candidate for governor has selected a running mate – a joint fundraising committee to supplement the money raised by the principal’s campaign committee.
But in 2013, the State Board of Elections quietly issued a ruling saying that any joint fundraising committee featuring a candidate for governor and a candidate for lieutenant governor must adhere to the restriction on fundraising during the legislative session. So while several Annapolis lawmakers may make attractive potential running mates to the Democrats running for governor, the gubernatorial campaigns could be restricting their ability to raise money if they select a legislator to be the candidate for LG.
Sure, the candidates for governor themselves can continue raising money during session – with the exception of Madaleno – but they’ll be taking away an easy avenue for extra funds if they pick a legislator to be their No. 2. Most of the Democrats running for governor are already finding it challenging to raise money, so they may not want to restrict their ability to collect extra cash for three months by choosing a lawmaker, especially considering the Democratic primary is just 2 ½ months after the General Assembly session ends in mid-April.
“Ninety days is a lifetime in this race,” said one top staffer to a Democratic gubernatorial contender.
In the 2014 election cycle, two unsuccessful candidates for governor selected state legislators to be their running mates.
On the Republican side, David Craig, then the Harford County executive, tapped then-Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to run with him. According to campaign finance reports, Craig all but shut down his campaign committee once he named Haddaway-Riccio in 2013, setting up a joint account instead.
The campaign raised about $494,000 from the time the joint committee was set up – including $80,000 that Haddaway-Riccio kicked in from her own campaign fund. Because this effectively was the principal fundraising vehicle for the campaign, the committee continued to raise money during the legislative session, even while Haddaway-Riccio was serving in Annapolis (curiously, one campaign finance report from the joint committee featured seven pages where only the first names of the donors were listed).
On the Democratic side, things were slightly different. Then-Attorney General Doug Gansler picked then-Del. Jolene Ivey to be his candidate for lieutenant governor. The Gansler-Ivey joint fundraising committee took in about $270,000 from the time it was set up in 2013, including $51,000 transferred from Ivey’s campaign committee, until the end of the campaign.
But Gansler kept his original fundraising committee intact – meaning both that entity and the joint fundraising committee raised money simultaneously, except for the 90 days when the legislature was in session. During that period, the only receipt the joint fundraising committee reported was the $51,000 from Ivey’s campaign fund.
Will this provision of state election law limit opportunities for ambitious state lawmakers to wind up on a gubernatorial ticket? Stay tuned – candidates for governor don’t have to fill out their tickets until Feb. 27, the candidate filing deadline for the June primary.
When she was running for mayor of Baltimore in 2016, then-state Sen. Catherine Pugh (D) was able under state law to raise money into her state account, which was the principal fundraising vehicle for her mayoral campaign, during the three-month General Assembly session. The same was true for two other state senators, Barry Glassman (R) and Allan Kittleman (R), who ran for Harford and Howard county executive, respectively, in 2014. And state lawmakers running for Congress generally continue raising money into their federal campaign accounts during the session – which is not a violation of state law.
Which only goes to prove: Campaign finance rules – in Maryland and nationally – are very fungible.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that Catherine Pugh received special permission from the State Board of Elections to raise money for her mayoral campaign through her state campaign account. As the story now shows, this was permitted under state law.