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Thursday, October 10, 2013

City Agrees to Change Campaign Finance Law

George Wenschhof

During The City of Frederick mayor and board of aldermen workshop yesterday, there was unanimous agreement to move forward with proposed changes to the city's campaign finance law.

Assistant city attorney Rachel  Depot submitted a proposal modeled after the recently passed state of Maryland campaign finance law.

Alderman Michael O'Connor(D), said during the city mayor and board workshop discussion "this loophole should be closed" and requested this amendment be presented during the first mayor and board meeting in November. Alderman Kelly Russell concurred with O'Connor and added her desire to rectify this prior to the end of their term.

The proposed change will not affect the current election and is scheduled to go into effect on December 6, 2013.

The proposed changes are designed to close some of the loopholes that allow individuals to make multiple donations from business entities owned by an individual, whose aggregate total contribution exceed the limit established by law.

The campaign contribution limits are $2,500 for mayor and $1,000 for alderman.

This is a welcomed move in the right direction by the city. 

However, I would recommend a change in the definition of what constitutes a contribution from one contributor in Sec. 7-22. Limit on contributions. (d) (ii) which reads "the business entities are owned or controlled by at least 80% of the same individuals or business entities.

In a conversation with assistant city attorney Rachel Depot, she informed me the state committee had recommended 50% and it evidently had been changed to 80% by the state legislature.  I would hope the city would go with the 50% level to further restrict influence by a single contributor. 

I  first pointed out the loophole after my review of the first candidate campaign finance reports revealed mayoral candidate Maryland state delegate Galen Clagett had received $20,000 from entities associated with local developer Marvin Ausherman and $10,000 from entities associated with Pleasants Construction. Also mayoral candidate Karen Young had received $7,500 from entities associated with local businessman John Fitzgerald.

In regard to the current election, I did request and received a response from all candidates in the General Election to abide by the "spirit of the law" on contribution limits for the remainder of this election.

Stay tuned.


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