A blanket ban on all political fundraising during Baltimore County's Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) makes sense, as it is similar to the state law that prohibits legislators in Annapolis from raising money during the 90-day legislative session. However, a ban solely on "developer contributions" like the one Sen. James Brochin recently proposed likely violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and possibly the First Amendment as well ("Brochin proposes ban on developer contributions in Baltimore County," June 13).
State action prohibiting campaign contributions by a "developer" (whatever that means) without banning all other contributions that might relate to a particular zoning issue is inequitable and probably unconstitutional. By way of example, during the controversial Chestnut Ridge development, which came up during both the 2012 and 2016 CZMP and was an issue in my 2014 County Council campaign against Councilwoman Vicki Almond, various stakeholders made campaign contributions to both my campaign account as well as Ms. Almond's. All of these contributions are public record. While serving on the Baltimore County Planning Board during the recent CZMP, I based my votes upon what I believed was best for the citizens of Baltimore County, not in accordance with who contributed more to my political campaign. I believe that Councilwoman Almond has done the same.
Are the wealthy landowners who wanted to preserve their pristine view of a golf course (and made campaign contributions accordingly) any less of a "special interest" than the "developer" seeking to build housing that would add to the tax base and benefit Baltimore County as a whole? How is it fair to allow well-heeled activist groups like the Valleys Planning Council to make campaign contributions while the property owner is locked out of the political process?
As long as campaign contributions are a matter of public record, the voters can and will decide whether their elected officials are acting in their best interest.
Finally, I find Senator Brochin's comments about "pay-to-play" in Baltimore County extremely hypocritical, given the many "special interest groups" that have business in Annapolis and contribute accordingly, even if they do so a few days before, or a few days after, the legislative session.
Jonathan M. Herbst, Baltimore
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