Ex-state senator working for Bartlett says it was a paperwork mistake
By katherine heerbrandt
What a former state senator is calling a paperwork snafu has led to allegations that he violated federal election laws.
The Maryland Democratic Party maintains that former state Sen. Alex X. Mooney cannot be a congressional aide and a congressional candidate for the same seat at the same time.
Mooney, who is also the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party chairman, filed a statement of candidacy for the 2012 6th Congressional District race in January 2012, but officially withdrew it a month later.
In June, he was hired by U.S. Rep Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist.6) of Buckeystown to do community outreach.
In a Sept. 25 letter, Democrats asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Mooney’s actions as an aide and potential congressional candidate.
In the letter, the state party asks if a congressional aide acting as a candidate — and accepting campaign checks would be one indication of candidacy —- is violating congressional ethics rules.
A call to the Office of Congressional Ethics was not returned by The Gazette’s press time.
David Sloan, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said his office has been advised that such congressional ethics investigations can take a few weeks to a few months to complete.
But regardless of the length of the investigation, Sloan said Mooney and Bartlett “clearly violated” ethics rules in what is the latest in a pattern of the congressman ignoring protocols. He referred to Bartlett’s well-documented troubles with the Federal Election Commission for mistakes on this campaign finance reports.
For his part, Mooney said the whole thing is “a misunderstanding.”
When he withdrew from the race, Mooney said he assumed he was no longer considered a candidate.
Mooney kept his campaign funds, more than $100,000, in a FEC account, amending the date of the campaign from 2012 to 2014. Some donors asked for their money back, and he returned it, Mooney said.
If you keep at least $5,000 in a FEC account, you are considered a candidate, Mooney said.
Mooney declined to say whether he will follow Bartlett’s footsteps in 2014 because it could imperil his position with the 10-term congressman, and such a declaration assumes Bartlett will be re-elected on Nov. 6. Mooney said he simply had to do something with the money.
“It is fair to say I don’t know what the future holds, but the campaign money — you can give it away, turn it into a PAC [Political Action Committee], or give it back to donors…. I had to do something with it,” he said.
Mooney said in a recent interview that the ethics rules do not apply to someone like him who is so low on the totem pole — those making less than $90,000 annually — in Bartlett’s office.
“The ethics law doesn’t apply to me because I have a lower-level job,” he said.
But there are conflicting reports on Mooney’s salary, with one saying he earns far less than that, between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, working for Bartlett a few days a week. Mooney said he earns $2,000, but earlier reports from Bartlett’s office estimated his monthly salary at $3,000.
Mooney quit his job as executive director of the National Journalism Research Center to take the position with Bartlett.
Bartlett’s office said that the “clerical mistake” was corrected regarding Mooney’s campaign account.
Ted Dacey, Bartlett’s campaign manager, said politics, not violating any rules, is the impetus for the complaint, alleging that Bartlett’s Democratic challenger, John Delaney, is behind the complaint.
“John Delaney and his allies are desperate to change the subject away from his unethical business practices,” said Dacey, referring to allegations from the Bartlett camp that Delaney financed projects that violated the law, including four nursing homes and a landfill.
Delaney has denied the allegations, and Sloan said his organization learned about the violation from The Washington Post, not Delaney’s campaign.
Delaney’s campaign manager, Justin Schall, said: "Ethics rules should never be taken lightly."