State elections officials have directed the Maryland Republican Party, which has been struggling to pay off debts, to reimburse $77,500 to a state campaign account maintained by Michael S. Steele, Maryland's former lieutenant governor and the current chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The June 23 order, which gave the state GOP a month to make the payment, comes amid growing pressure on the party's chairman, James Pelura, to step down.
The bulk of the money in question, which was first reported in the Baltimore Sun, stems from legal work done for the state GOP in 1992 on a redistricting fight. Steele, who was chairman of the Maryland party at the time, authorized the work.
According to the State Board of Elections, $75,000 from Steele's state account, which he maintained as lieutenant governor, was used to pay off the party's outstanding legal fees. Such a large transfer would have been permissible, the board ruled, if Steele had been closing out his state campaign account. But he was not and made no effort to do so, the board said.
The party has also said that Steele's payment was an in-kind contribution to a party "administrative account," which is not subject to the same limits as other contributions. The board did not accept that explanation, either.
Letters to Steele and the state GOP said the transfers were discovered during routine audits of political committees.
-- JOHN WAGNER
O'Malley Heads to D.C. To Raise Funds, Pints
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is heading into the District this month to down some Guinness and raise money for his 2010 reelection campaign.
"Join us for pints with Gov. Martin O'Malley at the Dubliner," reads an invitation sent out via e-mail last week, referring to the venerable Irish pub near Union Station.
Tickets for the July 27 event start at $25. Sponsors are being asked to pay $1,000