State Democrats have accused a group opposing the Maryland Dream Act of violating campaign finance law, arguing that the group produced and aired radio ads without registering as a political committee.
The Maryland Democratic Party has asked state prosecutors to investigate Help Save Maryland, which they say has not registered as a ballot issue committee, as required by state law.
The Dream Act, which allows some undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at community colleges and public universities, is one of several measures going before voters in November.
Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, said his group was one of several that simply presented facts about the new law, but did not take a position.
“This is just an attempt now to silence and violate our First Amendment rights,” Botwin said, adding that he had referred the letter to the group’s attorney and that he would be glad to answer any questions prosecutors might have.
“Help Save Maryland is breaking the law,” David Sloan, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said in a statement Monday, adding that it was “ironic that for all of Help Save Maryland’s bluster about ‘the rule of law,’ they can’t follow simple election laws designed to inform the public about who is funding efforts to persuade voters on political issues.”
The Rockville-based anti-illegal-immigrant group produced two radio ads warning voters that the Dream Act “has serious consequences for our state’s budget and our children’s future” and encouraging listeners to visit the group’s website to learn the facts, according to state Democrats.
One of the ads can be heard on the group’s website, helpsavemaryland.com, and is accompanied by a request for donations so that more radio spots can be aired.
Such ads violate election law not only because the group has not formed a ballot issue committee — which would require them to disclose donations — but because the ads do not include a proper authority line identifying a registered political committee and its treasurer, wrote the party’s attorney, Joseph Sandler, in a letter to prosecutors dated Monday.
“By flagrantly ignoring these requirements, Help Save Maryland is preventing Maryland citizens from having information to which they are entitled,” Sandler wrote.
Educating Maryland Kids, a coalition — and registered ballot issue committee — supporting the law, has raised more than $1.5 million, according to campaign finance reports released late last week.
A spokeswoman for the coalition said it supports the Democrats’ inquiry into the alleged violations and believes valid questions were being asked about Help Save Maryland’s campaign status.