Shea contributes $534K to own campaign for governor

Several Democratic candidates are putting their own finances on the line in the race for Maryland governor — but no one more than lawyer Jim Shea.

A review of Shea’s first campaign finance report shows he has made more than $534,000 in contributions to his campaign, including $400,000 given right before the filing deadline this month — a move that helped put him near the top of the cash race in the Democratic primary.


He was second in cash on hand in the crowded Democratic field of hopefuls who want to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November. Shea had more than $1.3 million on hand, trailing Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who had a little more than $2 million.

“I’m pleased because it shows I have strong support,” Shea said of the fundraising haul, noting that he received nearly 1,600 contributions. “It gives me a chance to get my message heard.”


Shea’s donations are contributions, not loans, meaning he cannot repay himself through others’ donations.

“I’ve asked my friends to stretch for me and invest in me, and I wish to do the same,” he said.

Shea was joined by two other candidates for governor who pumped tens of thousands of dollars into their own campaigns.

Krish Vignarajah, a former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama, gave her campaign a $100,000 personal loan. She reported Wednesday that her campaign had $410,000 in the bank.

Her campaign noted that more than half of her donations came from women, including actresses Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd. She also tweeted that her male opponents are spending their money more quickly than she has done. “My mom always says, if you want your money managed well, give it to a woman,” she wrote.

“We are within striking distance with our cash on hand,” Vignarajah said in an interview. “We’re not personally wealthy,” she said of the loan. “I’m certainly not a self-financed candidate. I wanted to make sure we had the resources available to make sure we reach voters across the state.”

State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., the only candidate to accept public financing, lent his own campaign $120,000. He has $193,000 on hand. His campaign said that tally would increase once matching public funds kick in.

His campaign noted that he had nearly 2,000 contributions and 85 percent came from Maryland.


While Maryland law limits the amount of money an individual or business may contribute to a candidate’s campaign to $6,000 per election cycle, there is no limit on how much a person can contribute to his or her own campaign.

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A candidate and his or her spouse may make unlimited contributions. Money contributed by the candidate cannot be repaid to the candidate, unless it is reported as a loan.

Shea, an Owings Mills resident, is the former chairman of Venable, the state’s largest law firm. He said he wasn’t worried that Democrats would exhaust their campaign treasuries before the general election in a high-dollar battle to win the June 26 primary election.

“I’m comfortable that I’m going to raise money in the coming months and I’ll be able to raise real good money in the general election,” he said.

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, noted that the better-polling candidates in the race — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Kamenetz, and former NAACP president Ben Jealous — didn’t contribute to their own campaigns.

“Candidates who look like they’re going to win attract contributions and don’t have to finance their own campaigns,” he said.


But Crenson added that a self-financing strategy worked for Rep. John K. Delaney, who paid for about half of his campaign expenses during his successful first run for the House of Representatives in 2012.

“He financed his own campaign for Congress, and that worked,” Crenson said. “But self-financing sometimes backfires. The more you go around raising money, the more people you meet and support you get.”