Money solicitation under delegate's name called an error

A fundraising email that went out under the name of a Cecil County delegate just hours after the General Assembly convened was sent out by mistake, the group's chairman said Friday.

Patrick McGrady, chairman of The Maryland Liberty Political Action Committee, said Republican Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. had not given permission for the gun-rights group to send out the email Wednesday afternoon. He blamed the error on a technical glitch.

"We screwed up," he said.

The email, which provided a link for gun rights supporters to donate to the PAC, went out about five hours after the Assembly convened for its annual 90-day session. Lawmakers are forbidden by state election law to raise funds for themselves or other candidates during the session.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of  Maryland Common Cause, said the email "crossed the line" into a violation because the group -- under Smigiel's name -- set among its goals the election of more "liberty Republican" lawmakers. She said it was important to block further erosion of the 90-day "blackout" on campaign fundraising.

Smigiel, one of the most vocal gun rights advocates in the legislature, agreed that the email during session was inappropriate. He said he learned about it only when given a copy by a reporter. Smigiel, who said he scrupulously observes the session ban, then showed the reporter correspondence on his laptop indicating that he never gave final approval of the wording of the message.

The delegate said he immediately contacted the PAC after learning about the message and registered his objections.

"They apologized profusely," he said. "They're good people. Good people make mistakes."

The political message did not come from Smigiel's legislative email account -- which would have been a clear violation of ethics rules. It came from the PAC's email address.

McGrady said he did not plan to send out a second email withdrawing the original because he thought it would compound the original error. He said the Aberdeen-based PAC was founded in 2011 and has no plans to make monetary donations to candidates.

The strongly worded email, addressed to "Patriot," was a political call to arms denouncing "Democrat Party bosses"  and asking Second Amendment enthusiasts to rally around Smigiel's bill to repeal Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun safety law. The legislation passed by the General Assembly last year without Republican support.

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