Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Maryland Campaign Finance Reform 2013

Did you know that Maryland passed Campaign Finance Reform this Session?  Unless you spent considerable time in Annapolis over the past few months, I bet you didn't.  Here's the coverage from the Associated Press.  Those are the same six paragraphs used in just about every news story on the subject, which really do not do the bill justice.  Here's the text (PDF).

Let's see if we can break it down:

One of the first things the bill does is include a new class of Political Action Committee called "Legislative Party Caucus Committee" (whoa, did you have a "Clunky Phrase" competition without calling me?).  These LPC's are defined as committees organized for any ballot issue, political candidate, or any committee organized in opposition of a political candidate.  Each political party may establish one LPC for each House of the General Assembly.

These definitions also expand the coverage of campaign finance regulations to any combination of two or more individuals that "has as its major purpose" promoting the success or defeat of a political issue or candidate.  (LLC's anyone?)

The bill expands what records may be made available to the State Board in monitoring the activities of LPC's and other PAC's.  There is no requirement that these records be made available to the public, but presumably this will assist in exposing the "major purpose" of unidentifiable contributors.

This bill puts limits on being a member of a slate, restricting it to incumbents or candidates that have already filed certificates of candidacy.

Political Party Central Committees are now permitted to establish Administrative Accounts for expenditures related to nonelectoral purposes. These Administrative Accounts are not subject to contribution limits.  Have all the juice and cookies you want!

As noted in the AP piece, contribution limits are increased from $4,000 to $6,000 for any single campaign account, and from $10,000 to $24,000 in aggregate.  State Central Committees or LPC's have single candidate limits of $1 for every voter in the state, while local Central Committees are limited to $1 for every voter in the County.  Beginning in 2019, these limits are set to increased in accordance with growth in the Consumer Price Index.

Contribution limits do not apply to transfers from candidate accounts to slate accounts of which the candidate is a member or LPC's should that candidate be a member of the caucus.  Slates and LPC's are limited to contributing $24,000 per election cycle to an individual candidate campaign account.

Out-of-State PAC's must now register with the State Campaign Finance Board and are limited to $6,000 aggregate per election cycle.

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it appears that Section 13-304(c)(4) allows a candidate to report up to $25,000 in contributions without including the name and address of contributors.  That seems a bit odd and I will presume it is a misread.

The bill includes the term "Text Blast", which means a text message sent to 5,000 or more people.  Should I go the next 30 years without receiving a text blast, it will be too soon.

Most interestingly, this bill allows counties and other local jurisdictions to establish Public Campaign Financing.  It is a watered down system, but still of interest for those who see public financing as a means of reform.  The largest flaw would seem to be that County offices are often springboards to higher office.  Since public financing would be limited to County positions, any war-chest or support of other campaigns would be significantly limited.

The bill also bulks up the enforcement mechanisms and criminal penalties for failure to comply with the rules and deadlines, which should draw all of our local officials to section 13-604.1 of the bill.  No more lollygagging with your campaign finance reports!

There were a number of other provisions that I did not get to so I invite you to check out the text of the bill (it is not too long).

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!