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Editorial: Maryland money flows to presidential candidates

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by this. Yet somehow, we are.

A MarylandReporter.com story on Monday found that Maryland residents have contributed the sixth-most in campaign donations to 2016 presidential candidates so far this year. The nonprofit political website's coverage was relying on an analysis by Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that analyzes the impact of money on politics.

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Relying on campaign reports filed by the candidates on July 15, $2.7 million was contributed by those from our state during the first half of 2015. More than half of that, just above $1.4 million, went to Hillary Clinton and a whopping 87 percent went to Democrats in total. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley raised nearly $900,000 in the state and Bernie Sanders nearly $70,000. Republicans were led by Jeb Bush with about $181,000 in donations. Donald Trump got $500.

Only those living in California, New York, Florida, Texas and Washington, D.C., gave more overall to the candidates.

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Considering the blue tinge to the state, it's not surprising that Democrats received the lion's share of the donations. What surprised us, however, was by how much. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were talking about a Republican upswing in Maryland. But the money, at least so far, isn't coming in the way the GOP might hope. And while we'd like to be naive enough to think that money doesn't matter in politics, we all know it does.

In its coverage, MarylandReporter.com also said that Maplight estimates spending in the 2016 presidential election could hit $5 billion, fueled mainly by "outside groups, like single-candidate super PACs, accounting for an increasingly larger portion of expenditures." PAC donations can sometimes shield the public from who's behind the donation, clouding what should be a transparent process. If that's not a call for some sort of campaign finance reform, we don't know what is.

Money has taken an obscene place in politics, one that seems to have polluted the well on both sides of the aisle. It seems that as the contributions go up, the quality of the candidates, in general, has gone down. But we somewhat digress.

Our first glimpse of the depth of the influence of these outside groups will come in early August. Presidential candidates have until July 31 to file those reports. At that point, and throughout the campaign, we encourage all interested voters to do what Watergate source Deep Throat told reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to do: Follow the money.

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