In Maryland, lawmakers and statewide officials are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions during the 90-day session of the General Assembly. But is it okay to tell supporters to “save the date” for an event that will happen after lawmakers adjourn next week?
The rival Democratic gubernatorial campaigns of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown are sparring over the answer.
Brown cried foul after a Gansler fundraising consultant sent an e-mail Tuesday asking recipients to put dates on their calendars this month for a reception in Silver Spring and a breakfast in Frederick. Neither event is explicitly billed as a fundraiser, either in the e-mail or in additional information that is posted on the Web site of Rice Consulting, the firm that sent it.
But Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Gansler, confirmed that the purpose of both events is to raise money for his campaign.
Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said the solicitations clearly cross the line.
“It’s very concerning that Doug Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general, would so blatantly disregard campaign finance law,” Schall said.
Hill said the Gansler campaign has been advised by state elections officials that the notices comply with the law.
“There’s no fundraising request or solicitation on there,” Hill said. “ ‘Save the date’s’ are standard practice, and they go out all the time.”
The legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year on Monday, after which Brown and Gansler will be allowed to raise money again.
Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said he plans to review the communication in question, noting that “we haven’t had complaints about this activity in the past.”
DeMarinis said candidates are allowed to distribute “save the date” notices for “generic campaign events” but are not allowed to issue fundraising solicitations of any sort during the session. “The words ‘save the date’ can’t be used to circumvent the law,” he said.
Gansler and Brown will face one another in a June primary that also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).
Brown and Gansler have sparred previously over whether the law allows Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), to raise money during the legislative session.
As a county official, Ulman is not explicitly covered by the fundraising ban, which applies to lawmakers and statewide officials. Gansler argues that the ban should apply to Ulman, however, because he is acting in coordination with Brown.
The elections board ruled that Ulman was not prohibited from raising money during the session. Brown has since said Ulman has not and will not raise money.