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Maryland Notebook

By Maryland Notebook
Sunday, July 19, 2009; SM02

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

The event comes during a period of stepped-up fundraising by O'Malley, inside and outside Maryland's borders, despite the uncertainty about who might run against him.

The governor, who often plays up his Irish heritage, will be prohibited from raising money for next year's campaign during the 90-day legislative session that starts in mid-January.

-- JOHN WAGNER

Pepco, PSC Get Kudos For Customer Credits

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) applauded Pepco and the state's Public Service Commission last week after the utility announced it would grant $39 million in bill credits to its 500,000 Maryland customers as a result of an earlier legal settlement with Mirant Corp., the company that purchased Pepco's power plants in 2000.

"The Maryland Public Service Commission and its Staff worked diligently to make sure Maryland consumers were represented and protected in this settlement," O'Malley said in a statement. "I also appreciate Pepco's willingness to work with the Maryland Public Service Commission as we work to secure our energy future."

The governor's sentiment was in sharp contrast to the fighting words he's had lately for Baltimore Gas & Electric, the state's largest electricity provider. O'Malley has accused BGE's parent company of "standing for one thing and one thing only: the profit motive."

Energy costs promise to be a major issue heading into the 2010 elections.

As a result of the settlement, Pepco said residential customers who use an average 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will receive a one-time credit of about $30 on next month's bill. The exact amount will depend on usage.

Pepco's customers in the District received a similar credit in March following approval by the D.C. Public Service Commission.

-- JOHN WAGNER

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