Council tweaks new public election funding law

Next summer’s primary election will be the first test run for the County’s new public election funding.

But as candidates start to declare and raise funds that will be matched by public dollars election experts have realized that some tweaks to the new law are in order.

On Tuesday, Council members Sidney Katz (D-3), Marc Elrich (Dat large), Hans Riemer (D-at large) and Nancy Navarro (D-4) introduced a bill to tweak the County’s public campaign financing law. The bill comes after a Government Operations Committee work session where County and State election officials pointed out potential loopholes and vague language that needs to be clarified through legislation.

Bill 25-17 would allow candidates to correct a mistake in their applications for public campaign funds; clarify that donations received during the primary election after a candidate exceeds the limit can be matched during the general election and allow for a candidate to use unspent funds as credit for repayment of funds they mistakenly received.

During the June 22 GO Committee meeting Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division at the Maryland Board of Elections suggested the Council make some changes to the law anticipating problems.

“You might want to address, I would say, some of these questions legislatively, so that there be some clarity” DeMarinis said.

Elrich provided a hypothetical that a candidate would not qualify for public campaign funds if there were an error his or her application.

“Somebody submits 505 contributions and there are six people who use their nickname, or the person looking it over forgets to put in the employer, then you are disqualified from participating in public financing,” Elrich said. “That makes no sense and it defeats the purpose.”

To qualify for public campaign financing, candidates must meet a set of standards requiring them to match a certain amount and number of separation donations. Candidates for County Executive must collect 500 separate donations totaling at least $40,000, candidates for County Council AtLarge must collect 250 separate donations totaling at least $20,000 and candidates for County Council district seats must collect 125 separate donations totaling at least $10, 000.

Contributions are limited to a max of $150 and a minimum of $5.

The County through a complex tiered system of donations then matches contributions.

Candidates for County Executive will receive $6 for every each dollar of the first $50 of a contribution, $4 for the second $50 and $2 for the third $50. A candidate for County Council would receive $4 for the first $50 of a donation, $3 for the second $50 and $2 for the third $50. Candidates for County Executive are limited to $750, 000 of public financing in the primary and another $750, 000 in the general election, while candidates for County Council are limited to $250, 000 in the primary and $250, 000 in the general.

So far there are 17 people that have filed their intent to qualify for public campaign financing. A public hearing for Bill 25-17 is scheduled for July 18.


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