Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony G. Brown said Saturday that his campaign would forgo the use of a loophole that might have allowed his running mate to raise money during the General Assembly session — portraying the decision as a matter of principle.
In response, the rival campaign of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler accused Brown of "talking out of both sides of his mouth."
Brown, Maryland's lieutenant governor, issued a statement saying that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has halted fundraising activities since the legislature convened in January and won't resume until the session ends. The State Board of Elections ruled that Ulman was not covered by the law banning lawmakers and statewide elected officials from accepting contributions during the 90-day session.
Brown said his campaign "never intended" to have Ulman raise funds during the session. Previously, the Brown-Ulman campaign had either said the Howard executive would raise money or simply left that option open.
Brown called on legislators to change the law to make it clear that running mates of candidates covered by the ban are also prohibited from raising funds during the January to April period when the Assembly is meeting. Brown said the purpose of the ban is to prevent fundraising from influencing legislative decisions. He said his campaign would abide by the spirit of the law regardless of its actual provisions.
"Just because something is lawful doesn't mean that it's right," Brown said.
The ruling by state elections director Linda Lamone that gubernatorial running mates who did not hold state office were free to raise money during the session prompted a lawsuit filed in December by Gansler supporters.
As a state official, Gansler is clearly covered by the ban, So is his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, putting their ticket at a potential financial disadvantage to Brown-Ulman.
The third Democrat in the race, Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, is exempt from the ban because she has decided to accept public financing, which limits her total spending. However, her fundraising during the session is limited to contributions of $250 or less from individuals and not corporations.
Responding on behalf of the Gansler campaign, Ivey said Brown's statement "doesn't even pass the laugh test."
"Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and his running mate both said numerous times they intended to skirt the fundraising ban so that they could keep lining their campaign coffers with special interest money, and now they're revising the truth," Ivey said.
The attorney who brought the lawsuit against the elections board and Brown-Ulman, Daniel Clements, said it was that legal action rather than principle that prompted the Brown-Ulman decision.
"Now they're trying to take the high ground, but instead of being the high ground, it's baloney," Clements said. "Our lawsuit stopped them."
While the attorney claimed victory, he also accused Brown of handling the defense of the lawsuit improperly.
"He literally had a legal obligation, if that's what he meant six weeks ago, to advise the court that the issue was moot," Clements said.
Brown's campaign manager, Justin Schall, said the lawsuit had nothing to do with the decision.
"This isn't about the moral high ground; this is about following the spirit and letter of the law," Schall said.
Mizeur spokesman Steven Hershkowitz declined to comment on the dustup between the two rival camps.
Brown's decision could reflect the improvement in his campaign's financial picture over the past year. Brown and Ulman raised more than three times as much money as Gansler and Ivey in 2013, according to the campaign finance disclosures filed last month. That erased the financial advantage Gansler had at the end of 2012.
Brown closed the year with $7 million on hand, compared with $6.3 million for Gansler. Mizeur ended 2013 with about $750,000.
Brown said Ulman disabled the link on his website allowing viewers to donate online at the beginning of the session in January. The session ends, and the ban expires, April 7.
The winner of the June 24 primary will face the winner of the Republican nomination. The candidates seeking the GOP nod are former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan, Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun