Democrats are asking state election officials to investigate whether an appointee of Gov. Larry Hogan broke campaign laws by raising money for the governor during the General Assembly session.
The Maryland Democratic Party filed a complaint Tuesday alleging Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. solicited campaign donations for Hogan one week before the session ended Monday.
State law forbids fundraising during the 90-day annual session. In an email last week, Redmer asked fellow Republicans to serve on a "host committee" for an upcoming Hogan fundraiser.
"Members of the Host Committee will be expected to generate $1,000 in revenue," he wrote. "The revenue could be generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, or a contribution, or any combination of the three."
Redmer, a former minority leader in the House of Delegates, said he wasn't asking for campaign donations.
"The email was not a solicitation for the event. It was a solicitation for volunteers to help organize the event," he said Thursday. "If I was soliciting for the event, I would have said, 'Send me your ticket money. Here's a link to buy tickets.'"
The Maryland Democratic Party called for the Maryland State Board of Elections to investigate. Party officials wrote in a complaint that any intentional violation of the law should be prosecuted.
If investigators find any unintentional violation, interim Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews wrote, Hogan's campaign should be forced to return any donations.
"It sends a troubling message that Governor Hogan and his team have no problem with one of their top administration officials soliciting funds during the session, which blurs the lines between public service and political campaigning," the party said in a statement Thursday.
Hogan's campaign had no role in the email, treasurer R. Christopher Rosenthal said.
"This is a baseless claim from an organization with a long history of making baseless claims," he said in a statement. "The Hogan for Governor campaign was unaware of this alleged email and no one officially associated with the campaign sent out any related correspondence during this supposed time period."
Redmer first served as insurance commissioner under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and was appointed by Hogan in January 2015. He served 13 years as a state delegate and two years as the House minority leader.
The Middle River resident is frequently mentioned as a candidate to run for Baltimore County executive next year. He says he has been mentioned as a candidate for the office in every election since 1998, and has never run.
He said Thursday he is "not a candidate at this time."
Del. Pat McDonough, a fellow Republican who does plan to run for county executive, said he was concerned about Redmer's actions. McDonough said he has been told by state elections officials that organizing fundraisers is prohibited during the session.
"It's very clear that you cannot do anything, and everybody in the General Assembly knows that," he said. "It should be clear to Redmer, too."
State elections officials have received and are reviewing the complaint, said Jared DeMarinis, director of the campaign finance division.
Redmer drew criticism in 2004 after he chose insurance company executives to attend a conference and discuss ways to streamline insurance laws. Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the appearance of a cozy relationship between Maryland's insurance chief and the companies he oversees.
Redmer said he emailed about 12 people for the Hogan fundraiser, a summertime bull roast at a waterfront park in Middle River. He said he was surprised by the attention from Democrats.
"I'm astounded," he said. "They're helping get publicity for an event to help the governor."