As co-author of Howard County’s Citizens’ Election Fund (CEF), I am disgusted with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s apparent efforts to use a misinterpretation of the law to undermine his political opponents’ campaigns (including a member of his own party) and risk destroying this important and democratic public finance program. Two of my former council colleagues, Del. Jennifer Terrasa, a Democrat, and Gregory Fox, a Republican, joined me in testifying on Jan. 18 that any delay in disbursing funds is expressly counter to our legislative intent.
In fact, communications from the county’s solicitor suggest that the language in question is unclear and, thus, County Executive Ball can release the funds now. The fund’s commission even made that request, but Mr. Ball denied it. The county executive is choosing to jeopardize the campaigns of his political opponents, including those in his own party, for his own political gain. Sound familiar? Former President Donald Trump used this shameful tactic on his opponents.
On Jan. 20, Mr. Ball crossed the line by using county resources for campaign purposes to attack former County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. Let me be clear, Mr. Kittleman supported the public finance program, just not the funding source. As evidence of his support, he and I engaged in many conversations on alternatives to public funding. But, in the end, the program was designed to be funded through taxpayer dollars.
County Executive Ball also falsely asserts that he has “been a demonstrated and steadfast supporter of publicly funded political campaigns.” He never engaged me or the legislation’s co-author in any substantive conversation regarding the referendum or legislation except for a few photo ops where he was present. In fact, then-Councilman Ball tried to discourage me from pursuing the referendum and legislation, stating that he would never use it.
As The Sun noted in its recent editorial, “Howard County makes a mess of campaign finance” (Jan. 19), the county has “either screwed up accidentally or did so deliberately.” Unfortunately, it is clear to me that Mr. Ball’s efforts are a deliberate attempt to manipulate the campaigns of his opponents. Executive Ball has the authority to release the funds today, but instead he is choosing to ignore the will of the people and undermine efforts to improve our democracy.
Jon Weinstein, Baltimore
The writer, a Democrat, represented District 1 on the Howard County Council from 2014 to 2018.
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