Two rival Republican candidates filed a complaint Wednesday against Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan, alleging that his campaign has illegally benefited from Change Maryland, a grass-roots organization he founded.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Del. Ronald A. George (Anne Arundel) said at a news conference that they were seeking an expedited investigation of the allegations before the June 24 primary.
“We need an answer now,” George told reporters. “We’re playing by the rules. This gentleman, Larry Hogan, should be required to do the same.”
Hogan forcefully denied any wrongdoing.
At issue are the assets — including a Facebook page with 90,000 fans — of the group Hogan launched in 2011 to monitor the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Democratic-led legislature in Annapolis.
The complaint, filed with the State Board of Elections by Craig and George, contends that from the start, Change Maryland has used its resources “to promote its chairman, garner media coverage and erect a digital infrastructure that continues to operate.”
The value of the group’s resources may exceed the amount such entities can give to campaigns, the complaint says. It also voices concern that Change Maryland did not have to disclose its donors, as a campaign organization would be required to do.
Hogan spokesman Adam Dubitsky said that “the entire premise of these allegations by two desperate campaigns is utterly absurd and patently false.”
Dubitsky said the Hogan campaign purchased the assets of Change Maryland once Hogan became a candidate for governor, an arrangement he said was made in consultation with state elections officials.
“In short, Larry Hogan for Governor owns Change Maryland and has since he became a candidate,” Dubitsky said, adding that the campaign is free to use the assets as it chooses.
Jared DeMarinis, director of the elections board’s candidacy and campaign finance division, said the board previously received a separate complaint related to Hogan and Change Maryland that is under review.
DeMarinis said that the Hogan campaign consulted with him about the outlines of the purchase of Change Maryland by Hogan’s campaign but that the elections office did not independently examine the value of the assets. In an April 3 memo, Hogan’s campaign manager informed the elections board that it had put a fair-market value for Change Maryland’s assets at $79,720, based on a consultant’s review of the organization’s Facebook page, Web site and mailing list.
According to the letter, Change Maryland was set up as a not-for-profit limited liability company.
DeMarinis said the new complaint would be examined “in a timely fashion” but did not commit to issuing a ruling before the primary.
“This is not a run-of-the-mill complaint,” DeMarinis said. “There are complex issues that need to be analyzed.”
Craig said it’s important that a ruling be issued before the primary, and not only because of the impact it might have on the race. He said he is concerned that an adverse ruling after the primary could hurt the GOP nominee’s chances in the general election.
Those running in the Republican primary include Hogan, Craig, George and Charles Lollar, a Charles County businessman. Lollar did not attend Wednesday’s news conference or join Craig and George in submitting the complaint.