Despite limits in Maryland election law, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is still asking his opponents to pledge to keep outside spending out of the 2014 Democratic primary.
Campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock said Thursday that it might take some agreement as to when the money is paid, but Gansler’s request that all Democratic candidates for governor agree to contribute to charity half the cost of any advertisement about them run by an outside organization still stands.
“Is it nontraditional? Yes,” Wheelock said. “Is it doable? Yes.”
The only point when a candidate can make a “straight-out” donation to a charity is at the end of an election when they close their account, said Jared DeMarinis, candidacy and campaign finance director for the Maryland Board of Elections.
And the donation can only come from surplus funds, he said.
Maryland’s Board of Elections has said in past opinions said that every expense paid from a campaign account during an election must relate to electoral purposes, he said.
So unless the donation directly benefits candidacy, the only time a candidate can give is when they close their account, he said.
Few candidates actually close their campaign account between elections, DeMarinis said. Rather a large majority keep them open for future runs for office.
Wheelock said the details of the law do not make Gansler’s pledge illegal. But it might require the candidates delaying payment to a charity until the end of the campaign and closing their accounts.
As of Thursday, no other Democratic candidates had signed Gansler’s pledge.
Justin Schall, campaign manager for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s bid for governor, said in a statement that Brown’s campaign staff has been working on an alternative and will propose it in the coming days.
“Our alternative will call for candidates to pledge to a positive campaign focused on real issues and will be in compliance with the law,” Schall said.