From Barbara Osborn Kreamer, Democratic candidate for MD Senate, District 34:
Barbara Osborn Kreamer, Democratic candidate for MD Senate, District 34, has filed a complaint with the State noting that her opponent Mary-Dulany James used campaign funds to purchase a Silver Lifetime Membership in the local branch of a national charity.
The Seven Hundred and Fifty dollar donation is prohibited under MD state regulations.
The MD State Board of Elections received Kreamer’s complaint on May 21st. On May 31st it notified Kreamer that it had referred the matter of the improper 2014 expenditure to the Division of Candidacy and Campaign Finance.
Maryland regulations prohibit the use of campaign funds for charitable donations because “Maryland requires campaign funds to be used for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate, question or political committee.”1 The manual of regulations governing candidates provides an exception: “a candidate may permissibly use campaign funds to attend a charitable event since attending the event increases the candidate’s visibility and allows the candidate to network with potential voters and donors.”2 The Harford Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet costs $60.
The James Campaign Fund is an ongoing entity that filed reports covering 2015 through the present day. So the gift is not permissible under the other exception, that is, the distribution of funds when filing a report to close down the fund.
Kreamer notes that James’ reports contain 2014 loans claimed to be from her personal funds totaling in $157,000. “So it seems that Mary-Dulany James could have afforded to make a personal tax deductible contribution to the local NAACP in a legal manner if she had lent a bit less to her campaign. As one of her donors, I thought all contributions would be targeted to her election effort.”
There is no notation of enforcement of the campaign finance laws in the intervening years. The burden of enforcement seems to be left to competitors like Kreamer or other interested persons. The Division has 30 days to provide a ruling to Senate hopeful Kreamer.
1. Summary Guide: Maryland Candidacy and Campaign Finance Laws, Maryland State Board of Elections, Revised March 2017, p 59.
2. Ibid, p 60.