Democratic House candidate John Delaney is up with the first negative television advertisement in Maryland's 6th Congressional District, taking to voters a feud with state Sen. Rob Garagiola that to date has mostly played out on the blogosphere.
"He's not telling the truth," the ad's narrator says as black and white pictures of Garagiola flash across the screen. "He's hiding that he lobbied for five years, failed to legally disclose nearly $200,000 in lobbying fees, even lobbied to undermine health care reform."
"In Congress , we can't trust Garagiola," the narrator says, "because he's an Annapolis insider with deep ties to lobbyists."
The Delaney camp first unveiled this line of attack several months ago in a press release. It is true that Garagiola failed to disclose $200,000 in income as a lobbyist from 2001-2003 on annual state financial disclosure forms. The Garagiola campaign initially argued that the wording of the form was unclear.
A State Ethics Commission official agreed that the wording on one set of instructions for the form could have been more clear but said that the office would advise lawmakers to disclose the income that Garagiola failed to. Other portions of the form were very clear that the income should have been disclosed. Delaney's campaign argues that Garagiola, who is an attorney, should have sought guidance if it was unclear.
The argument that Garagiola hid his work as a lobbyist while at the law firm Greenberg Traurig is based on the fact it was not initially included in his official state biography or on his campaign website. His work at Greenberg Traurig was disclosed, however, with the U.S. House and Sente, as required by law (that is presumably how Delaney's campaign found out about it). Those forms are available online. The question, then, is whether Garagiola should have made note of his years as a federal lobbyist when presenting his biography to voters.
It's also worth noting that early on in the campaign Garagiola released a decade's worth of income tax returns and W2 forms documenting his and his family's earnings. Garagiola challenged Delaney to match that disclosure and Delaney has not yet done so. Both men have filed required disclosure forms with the U.S. House of Representatives documenting their assets and previous year's income.
Asked to respond to the ad, Garagiola campaign manager Sean Rankin wrote:
"If this is how constituents can expect John Delaney will 'tell the truth,' then all of the 6th District will be in for a terrible surprise if they consider voting for a man who made his money pushing people out of their homes but condescendingly said we misunderstood his business, and in the face of questions about his $2,400 check to Tea Party Congressman Andy Harris, said that he raised over $800,000 for the Clintons and then expects us to believe that he was endorsed on the issues: caveat voter."
Garagiola's campaign has said that Delaney's company, CapitalSource, purchased hundreds of tax liens in Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere and then moved to foreclose on those properties. Along the way, the Garagiola campaign argues, the company jacked up lawyers fees on families to make it harder for them to climb out from under their debt. The Delaney campaign has argued that CapitalSource did not buy tax liens or initiate foreclosure suits but rather loaned money to companies that did. The Washington Post published a thorough examination of the issue today, which can be found here.
Regarding fundraising, Delaney's campaign has said the candidate raised some $800,000 for the Clinton family. Delaney also has acknowledged the contribution to Harris, a Republican who represents Maryland's 1st District (which was, at the time of the donation, home to a high-profile race). Asked about the donation on WAMU in Washington on Friday, Delaney said: "A good friend of mine asked me to contribute to his campaign and I did…I think everyone pretty much understands my rationale for doing it and looks at my track record of being a very, very supportive Democrats across, now, 20 years…I think people when they look at it they see that I'm a strong Democrat and I think that they take my answer on face value."
Here is the Delaney ad: