In Baltimore County executive race, Democrats claim Redmer has accepted campaign donations from insurance-related sources

The Maryland Democratic Party is criticizing Baltimore County executive candidate Al Redmer Jr., claiming he has accepted insurance-related campaign contributions after pledging not to do so.

But Redmer campaign spokeswoman Hannah Marr dismissed the claim as “ridiculous.”

Redmer, who is the Maryland insurance commissioner, has said he wouldn’t accept donations from the industry that he regulates. His website warns potential donors: “We shall not accept contributions from individuals or businesses regulated by the Maryland Insurance Administration.”

Redmer is facing Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr. in the election.

The Democratic Party tallied $57,445 in donations that it claims are from companies and individuals who are associated with the insurance industry.

“Al Redmer misled Baltimore County voters when he said he returned donations from the insurance industry, and he has refused to release his time sheets to let voters see whether he’s campaigned on taxpayers’ dime,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews said in a statement. In response, Marr said: “Clearly we must be doing something right if the Democrats are lodging these inane attacks against us.”

She said Redmer is legally allowed to accept campaign donations from individuals and companies in the insurance industry, but voluntarily elected not to in order to avoid any conflicts of interest.

“Al made that decision even before September when he announced his run, because he cares so much about transparency and he didn’t want that to become an issue,” Marr said.

She said Redmer has returned about $10,000 in campaign contributions from insurance-affiliated donors and has forgone tens of thousands of more in potential donations. Redmer’s campaign finance reports so far in 2018, and his annual report covering all of 2017, include returning $4,300 worth of donations “due to insurance affiliation.” An additional $2,810 of returned contributions are not labeled with a reason for the refund.

Marr said the individuals on the Democratic Party’s list are not directly regulated by the Maryland Insurance Administration.

The party’s tally includes contributions from donors who work with the insurance industry, but not exclusively. For example, it includes donations from lobbyist Gerry Evans and his firm ($2,000) and attorney/lobbyist Marta Harting ($250). It also includes spouses and “close relatives” of insurance executives, though the party does not define “close relative.”

Redmer has raised a combined $580,656 in 2017 and and 2018, according to his campaign finance reports.

Olszewski said in a statement: “Leaders set the example and the standard. They should never say one thing and do another, that’s just politics as usual.” He promised to have a “more transparent and accountable government” if elected.

The Democrats previously have called on Redmer to make his time sheets public to show that he’s not campaigning on state time.

Redmer has said he takes annual leave from his job as insurance commissioner to attend campaign events. He also said he’s not allowed to make his time sheets public because they belong to the state, not him.

The Baltimore Sun has filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for records of Redmer’s work hours since Jan. 1.

During the Republican primary, Redmer’s opponent, Del. Pat McDonough, filed a complaint with the state’s ethics commission alleging that Redmer was campaigning on state time. Redmer’s campaign has said the candidate turned over schedules, emails and phone records to the commission. McDonough’s complaint also alleged Redmer sought “votes or financial support from businesses” that have relationships with the insurance commission and other state agencies.

Marr said the Democratic Party is simply recycling McDonough’s claims.

“None of that worked in the primary,” she said. “It doesn’t hold water.”

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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