A donation to the campaign of County Council candidate Janet Siddiqui’s has been referred for investigation to the state prosecutor’s office by the state Board of Elections.
In a Feb. 22 letter to Assistant State Prosecutor Stephannie Krulevitz, the elections board requested that Krulevitz investigate a $100,000 contribution made by the Excellence for Howard County Slate to Siddiqui’s campaign.
Former Board of Education candidate Corey Andrews shared the letter in a public Howard County Facebook group on Friday.
Slates may not donate more than $24,000 to political campaigns, according to state election law, and the campaign called the transfer “a genuine mistake.”
The Excellence for Howard County Slate is financed by the political committee Friends of Nayab Siddiqui, formed during Siddiqui’s husband, Nayab Siddiqui’s, 2014 bid for the District 13 delegate seat to the state legislature.
Krulevitz said her office could not confirm if it had received the complaint. If found in violation of the regulation, a contributor could face up to a $5,000 fine.
Director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance in the State Board of Elections Jared DeMarinis said his office received a complaint regarding the contribution after annual campaign finance reports were filed on Jan. 17 and that his office referred the issue to the state prosecutor's office for investigation on Feb. 23. He declined to note who made the complaint to the board.
The slate’s money made up the bulk of Siddiqui’s funds listed in her January campaign finance report, when she had $105,709.75 on hand.
Siddiqui, a Democrat, is running for the District 4 County Council seat currently held by Democrat Mary Kay Sigaty. Siddiqui faces two Democrats, Ian Bradley Moller Knudsen and Deb Jung in the primary; the district spans much of Columbia as well as Clarksville, Highland, Fulton and North Laurel.
Nayab Siddiqui, who issued the contribution, said he was not aware of the state limit. Siddiqui said he was contacted by the Board of Elections during the first week of March and that officials guided him in how to correct the error; $76,000 is now loaned from Nayab Siddiqui to Janet Siddiqui, rather than a contribution from the slate.
“It was a genuine mistake that was corrected with their guidance and help,” he said.
Janet Siddiqui’s campaign filed a new campaign finance report on March 20 reflecting this change; the campaign noted one expenditure to return the $76,000 and one loan from Nayab to his wife for the same amount.
Krulevitz said if an investigation were to be opened, the prosecutor’s office would subpoena bank records and any other certified business records. The office has power to investigate allegations of campaign-law violations and other matters involving public officials.
“Election law article is pretty clear that being unaware of the rules is not a defense,” she said. “Even if it’s corrected, there could still be a penalty that could be enforced.”