The Democratic Party of Maryland has filed a complaint against an appointee of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), alleging he violated a ban on fundraising activities during the General Assembly session.
The complaint targets an email sent last week by Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. that invited recipients to help organize a July fundraiser for Hogan’s 2018 reelection bid.
Maryland law prohibits state officeholders, and people acting on their behalf, from soliciting campaign contributions or advertising upcoming fundraisers during the 90-day legislative session that ended Monday. The fundraising ban is designed to minimize the role of campaign politics in lawmaking.
It’s not clear whether Redmer, who is not formally a member of Hogan’s campaign staff, would be considered acting on behalf of the governor, or whether his email amounts to a “save-the-date” prohibited by state law.
Jared DeMarinis, director of the campaign finance division of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said he is reviewing the complaint. Without commenting on the specifics of the case, he said that generally the ban on soliciting during the General Assembly extends to people acting with the knowledge of campaign officials.
Hogan campaign treasurer Chris Rosenthal said the campaign wasn’t aware of Redmer’s email and that no one officially associated with the campaign “sent out any related correspondence during this supposed time period.”
Redmer, who abided by the fundraising ban himself when he served as a Republican state lawmaker from Baltimore County, said he didn’t think his email violated any rules because he was only looking for people to help organize the fundraiser. It was sent to two members of the Baltimore County Council and the Republicans representing the county in the House of Delegates.
“It was not a solicitation,” said Redmer, who was appointed by Hogan in January 2015. “It was a, ‘If you are interested in helping, let me know.’ ”
But the state Democratic Party, which obtained a copy of his email, thinks otherwise. The email lists the time and location of the bull roast fundraiser, and seeks members of a host committee who would be expected to raise at least $1,000 each.
“There is no reason to believe that this high-ranking state official appointed by the governor would be acting without any authorization in soliciting contributions for the Hogan fundraising event,” wrote interim party chair Kathleen Matthews in a complaint to the state Board of Elections.
Hogan campaign treasurer Rosenthal called the complaint “a baseless claim from an organization with a long history of making baseless claims.”
Redmer has previously drawn complaints from Democrats for helping fundraise for GOP officials while serving as insurance commissioner under Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state’s last Republican governor. They say it’s unseemly for him to organize fundraisers that could be attended by insurance businesses he regulates, although there is no legal prohibition against such activity.
“The insurance commissioner’s job is to regulate big insurance companies and protect middle class Marylanders,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Lesswing.
Sparring over fundraising rules is not unusual in Maryland politics. In the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown’s campaign criticized then-Attorney General Doug F. Gansler for sending out “save-the-dates” to fundraisers during the session. Gansler in turn criticized Brown for fundraising through his running mate who did not have to abide by the ban, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D).