SILVER SPRING - Democratic congressional candidate Ira Shapiro accused two opponents yesterday of improperly using surplus funds from old state legislative campaigns to promote their U.S. House candidacies in the Sept. 10 primary.
Shapiro said state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. and Del. Mark K. Shriver used leftover money on mailings that were designed to aid their 8th Congressional District candidacies. State and federal election law prohibits the transfer of funds from state campaign committees to their federal equivalents.
The mailings from Van Hollen included one in March and another in May, which included glossy literature promoting his role in securing additional school funding for Montgomery County. Shriver's mailing was an invitation to a reception in Annapolis earlier this year.
The Van Hollen and Shriver campaigns said yesterday that the mailings were legal. In them, neither candidate mentioned he was seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella.
"Chris regards it as his right and responsibility to share his important legislative accomplishments on issues such as education and health care with members of the community," said Dorothy Davidson, Van Hollen's assistant campaign manager.
Kim Elliott, Shriver's campaign spokeswoman, said his mailing was unrelated to his bid for Congress. She said the invitation was to a reception that Shriver has held for years in which citizens receive information about the legislative process.
The Shriver campaign said yesterday that it paid $1,260 to print about 8,000 invitations and another $2,219 on postage. The event itself cost $585.
Davidson said she didn't know how much the Van Hollen campaign spent on its mailings. Van Hollen and Shapiro each consulted with the state Board of Elections and received letters that they believed cleared them to proceed, their campaign officials said. In each case, the board said the mailings seemed permissible, in part because, at the time, neither had filed a certificate of candidacy.
But Shapiro, a former Clinton administration trade negotiator, said Van Hollen and Shriver clearly knew they were running for Congress at the time and had raised ample funds for that purpose.
If not illegal, then their actions at least "circumvent the law," Shapiro said at a news conference.
Shapiro said he became suspicious when he received a mailing in May from Van Hollen at Shapiro's home in Potomac, which is located in the 8th District but is not in Van Hollen's state Senate district. The mailing was paid for by Van Hollen's state campaign funds.
Davidson said it was routine for Van Hollen to send newsletters outside the district.
"There were people all over the county who supported him," she said.
Some of Shriver's invitations were also sent outside his legislative district, Elliott said.