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Democrat vows to close "Hogan loophole"

A prominent Democrat lawmaker said Thursday he would work to close what he called "the Hogan loophole," which he said allowed Republican Larry Hogan "to pocket" public money during Hogan's campaign for governor.

Economic Matters Committee chairman Del. Dereck Davis said he would seek stiffer rules for politicians who accept public financing, as Hogan as done. Among those provisions: forbidding spending public money in a way that improves a candidate's financial fortunes.

Hogan's campaign, meanwhile, called the issue "absurd."

Earlier this year, Hogan legally used $80,000 in campaign cash to purchase the assets of Change Maryland, a political non-profit owned exclusively by Hogan. Hogan also signed up for Maryland's long-dormant public financing system that, to date, has given his campaign nearly $3 million.

Elections officials said Hogan's purchase of Change Maryland did not violate campaign laws.

But Davis argued that candidates who accept any public financing "should be held to a higher standard."

"His campaign made a purchase and he's the financial beneficiary of that purchase," Davis said.

"You can't blame anybody for following the rules," Davis said. "But this says to me is that we have a loophole in the public policy that needs to be closed."

Hogan's campaign spokesman Adam Dubitksy declined to answer questions about whether the law should be changed, and instead issued a statement attacking state Democrats.

"Larry Hogan’s effort to change Maryland for the better poses an existential threat to the party bosses who are clearly terrified of losing their eight-year monopoly on power," Dubitsky said in the statement, adding that this issue "distorts the truth."

Davis said he did not believe that candidates who accepted donations from private individuals should be barred from making purchases that benefits their personal fortunes, only those who accept public financing.

Most candidates, he said, "you have to answer to your contributors, you have to answer to them. But this is public money. Once you accept public financing, to me, that sort of changes the rules a bit."

As it stands, candidates who take public cash follow all of the same rules as those who raise their own campaign funds, said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance at the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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