By John O’Connor
ANNAPOLIS – Baltimore Delegate Maggie L. McIntosh took advantage of flexible state campaign finance laws to transfer more than $11,000 between campaign funds – more than state laws typically allow.
The transfers came as McIntosh, and three other Democratic candidates, divided their slate war chest among personal campaign funds after being redistricted by the Maryland Court of Appeals.
Maryland caps slate donations at $6,000, but the transfers were legal, said Ross Goldstein, director of the Maryland Board of Elections’ campaign finance division, because candidates may contribute an unlimited amount to their own campaign fund. Candidates are also free, said Goldberg, to form, join or leave a slate at any time.
Slate funds, say critics, are another sign of a dysfunctional system.
“What began as a fairly objectionable incumbent protection plan,” said Sean Dobson, director of Progressive Maryland’s electoral reform program, “has morphed into a much more serious problem.”
Progressive Maryland favors a study of publicly funded campaigns, but Dobson does not blame those who take advantage of the current rules.
“We have a systemic problem . . . these are good people operating in a bad system,” he said. “The law allows them to do this so we’ve got to change the law.”
McIntosh, the House majority leader, was a member of the 42nd District Unity Team slate committee with Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman and Delegates Samuel I. Rosenberg and James W. Campbell when the Court of Appeals rejected Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s redistricting plan on June 11. Ten days later the court redistricted McIntosh to the 43rd District and Hoffman and Rosenberg to the 41st District, while leaving Campbell in the 42nd.
The four candidates, said Goldstein, decided to disband the slate fund and called the Board of Elections to discuss how to empty the treasury. McIntosh moved $11,175.93 from the district slate committee to her personal campaign fund on July 9, before resigning from the slate Aug. 7.
Campbell transferred more than $8,000 to his account and Hoffman and Rosenberg more than $6,400 each.
The McIntosh transfer demonstrates how state slate laws allow candidates to transfer unlimited amounts of campaign money among themselves at will.
Former Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, also used slate funds to transfer more $100,000 to two Senate campaign committees, according to a Capital News Service review of campaign finance reports.
McIntosh could not be reached for comment.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, became the first to employ slates in campaigns for Senate Democrats in 1997. McIntosh has joined a similar committee that House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, formed at the end of August.
One delegate, who lost to McIntosh in the Sept. 10 primary, likens the system to money laundering because a candidate only has to report donations from a slate fund and not from the original source of the money.
“In fact it is (laundering),” said Delegate Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D- Baltimore. “When you report, you only report the source. It basically would cover the trail once the money is co-mingled in a slate.”
The ability to join and leave a slate at will, said Montague, allows money to be “focused” and undermines the campaign finance and public disclosure laws.
“One of the principles is trying to make sure that no one particular entity is able to fund a campaign to the point where they have an overbearing influence,” he said.
“It eliminates the level of accountability we’ve built into our reporting standards,” he said. “It will be very difficult for the voters to hold people accountable.”