Brown’s comments — on an issue already the subject of a lawsuit — prompted a fresh round of recriminations Saturday. The campaign of a Democratic rival, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, took issue with Brown’s statement that his ticket never intended to raise money during the session, saying it reflected “an honesty problem.”
Maryland election law explicitly prohibits legislators and statewide officials — including Gansler and Brown — from raising money during annual legislative sessions. But the State Board of Elections ruled late last year that the ban does not apply to Ulman because he is a county official.
The ruling prompted a lawsuit from Gansler supporters in an attempt to keep Ulman from soliciting contributions during the 90-day session that started Jan. 8. Gansler and his supporters have argued that Ulman should be covered by the ban because his activities are so closely coordinated with those of Brown.
Separate attorneys for Brown and Ulman have filed motions to dismiss the suit, and a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
On Saturday, Gansler’s running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), said Brown’s contention that Ulman “never intended to” raised money during the session defied belief.
“This doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” said Ivey, who as a state legislator also is covered by the ban.
Brown, Ulman and their aides have been coy in recent weeks about Ulman’s plans for raising money during the 90-day session. On the day before the session began, Brown said “raising money for Ken Ulman during the legislative session is an option.”
A couple of months earlier, in a November statement, a fundraising consultant for Ulman said that the county executive was “planning to raise money within the boundaries of the law during session.” Brown aides never directly contradicted that statement.
During an appearance in Prince George’s County on Sunday, Brown maintained that his campaign had never intended for Ulman to raise money during the session. He pointed to the decision to remove fundraising “buttons” from both his Web site and a separate Ulman Web site once the legislative session began. The buttons allowed users to make online contributions.
Brown declined to address the allegation that he has an “honesty problem,” saying is focusing on issues that matter to voters.
“What they’re not interested in is the mudslinging that sometimes happens in a campaign,” Brown said.
Daniel M. Clements, a lawyer representing the Gansler supporters, said that if Ulman didn’t plan to raise money during session, the Brown campaign should have notified the court weeks ago. Clements also questioned the need for changing the fundraising law, saying it already “is really clear.”
The ruling by the elections board has drawn criticism from the editorial boards of several newspapers, including The Washington Post. In an editorial last week, The Post wrote that the “decision makes a mockery of the prohibition against fundraising by state officials while the legislature is in session — a rule intended to minimize the appearance that special interests can bribe lawmakers at the very moment they are writing new laws or changing old ones.”
Brown, in his Saturday piece, wrote that the “worthwhile debate we have had over the past few weeks has showed that the law is not perfect, which is why we need to change it.”
A week after the session began, Brown and Ulman reported having raised $5.4 million during the previous year, more than three times the total amount reported by Gansler and Ivey.
The haul was large enough to wipe out a huge advantage Gansler held a year earlier. As of Jan. 8, Brown and Ulman had nearly $7.1 million to spend on the race, while Gansler’s ticket had about $6.3 million, according to their reports.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a third candidate in the June Democratic primary, reported having about $750,000 cash on hand.