(If political spending not covered by the limits is included, Rickman-connected businesses have poured almost $1 million into Maryland election and referendum campaigns over that time, including the 2008 vote that approved slot machines and opened the door for Rickman to receive a Maryland casino license. State law sets no limit on spending to influence the outcome of a referendum campaign.)

Over those eight years, Rickman has enjoyed considerable success in the General Assembly, winning a slots license after the legislature approved the machines in 2007, special aid for Ocean Downs during last year's regular legislative session and benefits from the casino expansion measure approved by voters in November.

Rickman did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Other well-known Marylanders who have made use of multiple corporate entities to extend their giving power include Orioles owner and downtown property owner Peter Angelos, Harbor East developer John Paterakis and Maryland Live Casino owner David Cordish.

Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who will be a lead Senate sponsor, said the legislation will treat multiple corporate entities as one for the purpose of campaign donations if they are 80 percent owned by the same person or persons.

"It empowers the state to ensure that the LLCs are not a means for gaming the campaign finance system," said Ferguson, who served on the commission. "This is not a perfect solution, but it creates a bright line to ensure that violators can be prosecuted."

The legislation would not create a statewide system of public financing — the Holy Grail for election reform advocates but an idea the commission rejected, mostly because of concerns about how to pay for it. Neither is the measure likely to outlaw the use of statewide slates, a system that has been criticized for allowing large sums to be moved from politicians with "safe" seats to closely contested races with few restrictions.

Ferguson said the proposal strives to achieve what is possible.

"It hits the most-critical and most-fixable loopholes or problems in the law," he said. "It doesn't close every loophole."


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