Republican Larry Hogan urged state and federal investigators Thursday to probe the possible connection between large political donations to the Democratic Governors Association and the award of Maryland state contracts to donors.
Hogan, the GOP nominee for governor, also called on federal investigators to widen their audit of Maryland's health exchange to examine whether state tax dollars were misspent on the faulty online insurance marketplace.
He convened a news conference Thursday to allege what he called a pattern of "suspicious" donations and suggest that his opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, might be the beneficiary.
Hogan asked the U.S. attorney for Maryland, the Maryland attorney general and the state prosecutor to investigate.
"These millions of dollars in unethical, inappropriate and potentially illegal donations flowing into a gubernatorial campaign here in Maryland have the very real potential of corrupting the integrity of the entire electoral process in this election," Hogan told reporters at his Annapolis headquarters.
The Democratic Governors Association, which Gov. Martin O'Malley chaired from 2010 to 2012, has paid for $750,000 worth of television ads supporting Brown.
Hogan made similar allegations last year, when he attempted to draw connections between political donors and the companies that were awarded contracts to build the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
Then, as now, Brown and O'Malley said the accusations were baseless. Their spokesmen suggested it coincidental that some companies donated to a national organization and also won state contracts.
"There was zero truth to this Republican fairy tale when Hogan said it a year ago, and it's still false," Brown campaign spokesman Justin Schall said in a statement. "Larry Hogan has proven time and time again that he will say anything to distract from the important issues that matter."
O'Malley has said he works to keep his political work apart from his governing.
His spokeswoman, Nina Smith, said Thursday that "state contracts are awarded through an independent process. Our administration has and will continue to keep our political activities separate from our official work."
A spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said his agency does not have the authority to investigate such allegations, and the responsibility rests with the state prosecutor. Deputy state prosecutor Thomas M. "Mike" McDonough said the office will not comment on whether or not it will pursue a probe.
O'Malley raised record sums of cash for the Democratic Governors Association, which works to elect Democratic governors nationwide. Analysis by The Baltimore Sun in 2011 and 2012 found that some companies that gave money to the organization won contracts with the state, and others did not.
Hogan broke rule
The Maryland Board of Elections found that Republican Larry Hogan broke a campaign finance rule but agreed Thursday to waive the fine.
The panel cleared Hogan in two of three charges leveled against him by the Maryland Democratic Party. On the third charge, the board said Hogan violated campaign finance rules by not paying his group, Change Maryland, for a poll the group sold to his campaign.
Hogan asked that the $50 fine for the "non-willful failure" be waived, and the board agreed to do so.
"We thought all along it was politically motivated, and there was nothing to this," said Hogan's campaign spokesman, Adam Dubitsky.
Thursday's ruling resolves just one of the three elections complaints the dueling candidates have filed against each other.
Maryland Democratic Party spokesman Jared Smith said in an email that "despite all of his finger-pointing and accusations, Larry Hogan is the only candidate who has been found to have broken election law."