The new acting chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party alleges the organization was overspending without strong financial controls under the leadership of former chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is now seeking her late husband’s seat in Congress.
State Sen. Cory V. McCray, who took over as party chairman this month, wrote in a letter Friday to Maryland State Central Committee members that he has discovered “major areas of concern" pertaining to the organization’s finances, including “overspending” and lack of “fiscal constraints.”
“In 2019, the Party has spent more money than it has raised for 9 out of 10 months,” wrote McCray, of East Baltimore. He said the party’s bank balance has dwindled by more than $300,000 this year.
Rockeymoore Cummings took issue with McCray’s letter, arguing he wasn’t fully accounting for all of the party’s revenue. She said the party’s cash on hand decreased in the past year by about $100,000 ― not more than $300,000 ― but that was a result of strategic investments in the party’s growth not wasteful spending.
“Under Dr. Rockeymoore-Cummings’ leadership, the MDP made significant investments in strengthening party infrastructure and deepening Democrats’ reach into precincts from Cumberland to Crisfield during an off-year," said Tucker Cavanagh, spokesman for Rockeymoore Cummings’ campaign. "We are excited to see the MDP continue to grow and strengthen through the 2020 cycle and beyond.”
To right the organization’s fiscal health, McCray said, he has begun canceling contracts with consultants and recommending other fiscal controls.
“As a Maryland Senator, business owner, and past executive committee member of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO, Central Scholarships, and a number of community boards, I have a particular appreciation for the importance of imposing financial controls in an organization of our size,” McCray wrote.
McCray said he terminated a $5,500 monthly contract with Stephanie Mellinger Consulting as a fundraising consultant and a $3,000 monthly contract with Fairmount Media Consulting to serve as the organization’s email consultant.
McCray wrote he’s also requested reports from two other consultants about the work they’re providing for the party: Coco B Consulting, which is paid $7,500 per month to serve as the organization’s “DNC convention consultant,” and Mikki Waid Consulting, which is paid $1,000 per month to be the organization’s “platform committee consultant.”
Maryland Democrats will elect a new party chair on Dec. 7. Rockeymoore Cummings said she resigned as chairwoman this month to avoid any appearance of favoritism as she campaigns for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District seat, which includes parts of Baltimore City and areas of Baltimore and Howard counties.
Her husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings, died Oct. 17 after more than two decades in Congress.
A special primary election to replace him is scheduled for Feb. 4, followed by a special general election on April 28, the same day as the regular primary election for all of Maryland’s U.S. House seats.
Moving forward, McCray recommended that the organization require its treasurer to approve all checks to contractors and additional levels of approval for large expenses.
“Earlier this year, the Chair commissioned a poll at a cost of $42,000,” McCray wrote. “But it does not appear that either members of the Executive Committee, Statewide Leaders, or County Leaders had advance knowledge of the poll. In the future, the Party should set a threshold amount and require that any expenditures over that threshold amount receive the approval of the Party’s officers.”
McCray said he also was opting not to hire an additional organizer for the region of Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties until the new chair is elected and can make his or her own decision.
McCray wrote that he is suggesting the new chair be paid a “reasonable” salary because of the duties of managing $1 million to $3 million in annual revenue, day-to-day oversight of the organization, and fundraising activities throughout the state. The position is currently unpaid.
He is not running for the chairmanship.
“The above concerns, actions, and recommendations simply reflect my effort to improve our organization and ensure that our financial decisions are sustainable in the long-term,” McCray wrote. “I have made my best attempt at doing so during my short tenure as the Party’s acting chair.”
Ben Smith, the executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said staff will carry out the vision of the new chair once he or she is elected.
“Our new Chair will be elected on December 7th," Smith said in a statement. “The Party’s staff looks forward to working diligently to implement the new Chair’s vision once the election takes place."