Democrats charge Hogan with election law violations

The Maryland Democratic Party took a page from the book of Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan's GOP primary rivals Thursday by filing a complaint with the state elections board charging that his campaign illegally coordinated with a political corporation he founded.

Among other things, the Democrats charged that Change Maryland -- a conservative advocacy group Hogan founded in 2011 -- paid more than $10,000 for a poll conducted last year without properly disclosing the expenditure.

"Larry Hogan very clearly violated state election law, and we hope the board acts quickly to address these facts," Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis said in a prepared statement. "Larry Hogan has a long history of abusing his power for political gain and this is just the latest example. We hope that the Maryland Board of Elections will take decisive action against Mr. Hogan for violating Maryland law."

The Hogan campaign dismissed the allegations as nothing new, noting that charges leveled by his GOP rivals before the June 24 primary were dismissed by the board after the election.

The Democrats insisted that their charges against Hogan are based on new information and were not a part of the complaints made by GOP candidates David R. Craig and Ron George. Hogan easily won the primary, and now faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown in the November general election.

Initially Hogan used Change Maryland as a platform for opposition to the economic policies of Gov. Martin O'Malley, building a significant on-line following through social media. By last fall, however, Hogan was openly using Change Maryland as the equivalent of an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial campaign. 

Hogan formally entered the race in January and soon after his campaign committee acquired the assets of Change Maryland for just under $80,000.

The Democrats charged that the poll was used by the Hogan campaign even though the cost of the survey was not included in the list of Change Maryland's assets. That makes it an illegal in-kind contribution, the Democrats allege.

The party also charged that Change Maryland illegally conducted campaign finance activity for Hogan last year even though it was not registered to do so. The Democrats threw in a highly technical charge that Hogan bought Change Maryland on behalf of one of his campaign committees but uses the authority of its other committee on the group's Facebook account.

A Hogan campaign spokesman derided the Democratic tactic.

"Confronted with more bad economic news, scathing reports of abuse and neglect at state-licensed assisted living facilities, gross mismanagement in his administration and another high-profile employer leaving the state, it’s no surprise that Anthony Brown wants to change the subject," Adam Dubitsky said.  "Meanwhile, Brown has yet to respond to invitations from nearly a dozen major news outlets to debate Larry on the real issues facing Marylanders." 

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