ANNAPOLIS – Some lawmakers are calling for the elimination of political slates in response to controversial tactics used last year by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to promote Democratic candidates.
House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman, R-Montgomery, is the chief sponsor of legislation to close an election law loophole by eliminating slates, which are political committees formed by two or more candidates for joint campaign activities.
House Republicans claim the Democratic Senatorial Committee, headed by Miller, D-Prince George’s, skirted campaign finance laws by hiring Sheingold Associates, a consultant in Sacramento, Calif., to dole out campaign contributions to undisclosed Senate campaigners.
Critics say the “super slate” of 25 senators, failed to disclose what was on each candidate from funds sent to Sheingold Associates. The slate’s campaign finance reports show an expenditure of $258,000 to the firm earmarked for direct mail. In other words, the firm was being paid to handle all campaign literature mailings.
The slate also sent sums to Capital Advantage in Falls Church, Va., and Cooper & Secrest Associates in Alexandria, Va.
Kittleman said the slate spent more than $680,000 “who knows where” – funds that he says were enough to swing some Senate races.
Kittleman charges that Miller didn’t want Republicans to gain enough seats to successfully filibuster legislation, so Miller used the slate system to get more Democrats elected and keep the party dominant.
“If this is allowed to continue, we won’t have campaign laws in Maryland anymore,” Kittleman said. “He completely circumvented our campaign election laws…It’s such a flagrant violation of every (election) law we have.”
Slates already have run into legal trouble. The state prosecutor’s office is looking into a slate violation case regarding campaign literature, said Chief Investigator James Cabezas. He declined to say whether the investigation is related to the “super slate,” or to be more specific about the case. The office routinely deals with election law violations.
“If everyone’s on a slate and they don’t have to disclose expenditures, our laws won’t even be effective,” she said. “Effective limits on contributions could go out the window.”
But the senatorial slate didn’t do anything differently than any other political committee and is subject to the same money transfer rules, said Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Hoke Dachille. She said she considers a loophole to be nothing more than an unintended result.
“The slate reported no differently than any other political committee or candidate committee,” she said. “I think their (Republicans’) disgruntlement is that they can’t tell which members received that money.”