Campaign finance report takes aim at political slates, LLCs

A group of lawmakers and election lawyers called Tuesday for tighter state regulations on giving by political slates and limited-liability corporations, two-oft criticized ways that donors may flood candidates with money.

The recommendations are among 25 proposed by the group convened by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler last fall to study the state's campaign finance system.

Many of the changes would require legislative action. Top lawmakers have said they expect to entertain many bills this year aimed at reforming campaign finance, a hot topic after the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.

Gansler, who did not participate in the committee's work, called the 53-page report "more than food for thought for legislators." He said political slates, which can transfer unlimited amounts of money to and from anyone on them — in effect circumventing limits on donations — are "particularly crying out for reform."

The group also suggests closing the "LLC loophole," which now allows donors to evade limits by giving through multiple limited-liability corporations.

Members also recommended that lawmakers take a look at the limits of $4,000 per candidate per election cycle and $10,000 per donor per cycle. They did not say what the new limits should be.

The committee saw the limits, which have remained unchanged since 1991, as "something that should be addressed by the larger body" of legislators, said Del. Jay Walker, a Prince George's County Democrat, one of four lawmakers who worked on the report.

The committee included another Democrat, two Republican lawmakers, Board of Elections representatives and lawyers for the Maryland Democratic Party and the Maryland Republican Party.

Regardless of party affiliation, "people want disclosure," said Del. Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican on the committee. "There's public support for changing the system and making it more open."

Gansler, whose office represents the State Board of Elections, said that group might request specific legislation this year.

Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch said in an interview Monday that he believes legislators will make another run at campaign finance reform, a perennial topic, in the session that begins next week.

But both Busch and Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have criticized Gansler's study group, saying they weren't consulted about which lawmakers to include.

Recommendations to reform campaign finance

•Require candidates and political committees to report employer and occupation information from donors over a certain amount

•Close the "LLC loophole" by treating limited-liability corporations with a common owner as a single entity

•Require slates to disclose which slate members benefit directly from slate expenses and transfers

•Terminate slate members when they retire

•Limit the amount that can be transferred among slate members

•Require candidates to notify the Board of Elections about loans within 24 hours

•Limit the amount of money transferred to candidates by out-of-state political committees

•Review campaign finance limits, which have not changed since 1991

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad