Prince George’s council members are already barred from receiving developer contributions directly. But in recent years, many have received developer donations because they were members of slates, large groups of candidates who band together, that accepted the contributions.
State lawmakers, who act on a range of environmental and regulatory issues of interest to developers but do little direct review of developments, are barred from taking campaign funds from anyone during the annual 90-day legislative session. Before and after the session, they can accept campaign donations.
The County Council’s chairman, Ingrid Turner (D-Bowie), and vice chairman, Eric Olson (D-College Park), had worked vigorously to oppose the campaign finance measure. They had struck a compromise with Baker, who supported their desire to allow council members to vote on a development, even if their slate had accepted donations from a developer with a pending application, if the project was not in their district.
But the county’s Senate delegation rebuffed the agreement, and a House delegation committee followed suit Wednesday, leading to Friday’s House delegation vote.
“The County Council worked hard to put together a legislative package we thought improved county government and increased transparency,” Turner said. “We are disappointed our legislators in Annapolis did not work together with us on this initiative, on issues that have targeted the county and the County Council.” She, too, said she hoped there would be a renewed push for statewide campaign finance reform.
Baker, in a statement Friday that did not directly address the vote, said he was grateful to the delegation and the council for their “passion, collaboration and cooperation.”
Council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), who said her campaign takes little money from developers, said many members viewed the bill as a General Assembly power grab that would do little to affect ethics but would allow state lawmakers to gather campaign contributions and leave council members off their slates.
“It is so far from being about ethics, and so much more about consolidation of power,” she said.