Lawyers for Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Anthony G. Brown said in a court filing this week that supporters of his Democratic rival Douglas F. Gansler included him in a fundraising lawsuit as a “publicity stunt” and are asking a judge to throw out the case.
The lawsuit contends that the State Elections Board erred in its determination that Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, can raise money during Maryland’s 90-day legislative session and seeks to block him from doing that.
Separate lawyers for Ulman (D) and Maryland elections administrator Linda P. Lamone also filed motions this week to dismiss the lawsuit, contending the plaintiffs did not have the right to sue and that no one had done anything yet that could justify a lawsuit.
Daniel M. Clements, a lawyer representing supporters of Gansler, the state’s attorney general, said he would file a formal response by early next week but saw nothing that should prevent the case from going forward.
“We are confident a court will not dismiss the suit based on these misdirected motions,” Clements said.
The case hinges on a 1997 state law that bans fundraising by legislators and statewide officials — including Brown, Maryland’s lieutenant governor — during annual legislative sessions. This year’s 90-day session began Wednesday.
Ulman is not covered by the ban, but Gansler’s supporters argue that because he is running in tandem with Brown, he should be prevented from raising money as well.
The state board has said candidates in such situations can raise money if they maintain separate accounts and take other steps to avoid “coordination” with a candidate who is covered by the ban.
A motion filed by Brown’s lawyers says that regardless of the merits of those arguments, Brown should not be a defendant in the lawsuit.
“Mr. Brown is covered by the ban on fundraising during session and his conduct is not going to change regardless of whether the State Board of Elections’ guidance was right or wrong,” says the motion filed by Brown lawyers Joseph E. Sandler and Amanda S. La Forge. “Naming him as a defendant was essentially a publicity stunt, not an effort to assert any legitimate cause of action in a viable lawsuit.”
Ulman’s lawyers argue the case should be dismissed because under state election law, individual citizens have no right to challenge rulings by the state elections administrator. The two Gansler supporters are challenging the law in their capacity as Maryland voters.
“To allow the plaintiffs to proceed with this lawsuit would circumvent the intention of the legislature and would be contrary to well-established case law,” says the motion filed by Ulman lawyers Timothy F. Maloney and Hina Z. Hussain.
Lamone’s lawyers, meanwhile, argue that the case is not “ripe”: Ulman has not yet raised any money during the legislative session, the lawyers argue, so there is no conduct to stop.
The plaintiffs “have not, and indeed cannot, allege that any of the defendants did anything to violate” the election law, Lamone lawyers Andrew D. Levy and Kevin Docherty say in their motion.
Levy and Docherty also say the guidance offered by Lamone on fundraising during legislative sessions was correct.
It “represents a careful balancing of the legal nuances associated with campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor, consistent with decades of opinions and advice offered by the Office of the Attorney General,” Lamone’s lawyers say.
In an “open letter” this week, Gansler requested that Ulman avoid raising money during the legislative session, saying doing so would make a “mockery” of Maryland law.
Brown said that it remains “an option” for Ulman to raise funds.