Campaign finance requirements for Maryland ballot measures

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Campaign finance requirements for Maryland ballot measures are promulgated by the Maryland State Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections is responsible for handling all administrative and reporting functions of the state's campaign finance laws.

The State Board of Elections has a online disclosure database that lists all contributions and expenditures. Maryland's official campaign finance database is a collaborative project between the State Board of Elections and the University of Maryland-College Park's Center for American Politics and Citizenship.

If someone feels a person or committee violated Maryland campaign finance laws, the first step is to file a complaint to the Commissioner of the State Board of Elections. It is up to the Commissioner to investigate the complaint. Most civil cases are referred to the local state prosecutor's office. If the allegations involve a criminal law violation, the case is referred to Attorney General[1].

This article covers campaign finance requirements for ballot issue campaign committees in Maryland. Rules for campaign committees formed to support or oppose candidates are different and can be found in the Maryland State Code cited below.

General requirements

Issue Committee

Maryland law denotes any group in support or opposition of a ballot measure in Maryland as a Issue Committee.

Statement of Organization

An Issues Committee formed to support or oppose a ballot question in the State of Maryland must file a Statement of Organization. The statement must be filed when the petitions to place a question on the ballot are submitted and before any money is received or spent by the committee.[2]

Campaign finance requirements

Anonymous contributions

Maryland strictly prohibits all anonymous contributions made to Issues Committees. Anonymous contributions must be returned to the State Treasurer.[3]

Contribution limits

There are no limits on contributions made to Issue Committees formed in support or opposition of a ballot measure.[4]

Transfer limit

Maryland law limits the amount of money that can be transferred between a Issues, Slate, or a Political Action Committee (PAC). Maryland limits transfers between one entity to another to $6,000 for a four year span. There is no total aggregate limit for committee to committee transfers.[5]

The $6,000 limit does not apply if the transfer is between two separate Issues Committees. Transfers between Issues and other committees are limited to $6,000.[6]


Reporting requirements and reports

Issues Committees are only required to file pre and post-election reports along with an annual report during the election cycle.

Pre-Election report

The first campaign finance report of the election cycle is the pre-election report. The report covers all activity from the time when the committee first registered up to seven days before the report is due. The pre-election report is due, for ballot issue committees, on or before the fourth Friday before the election. This report, therefore, must cover all activity from the formation of the committee through the fifth Friday before the election.[7].

Post-Election report

See also: Maryland Senate Bill 930 (2014)

The second campaign finance report of the cycle is the post-election report. The report covers all activity from the closing of the previous reporting period through the first Tuesday after the election. This report is due the second Tuesday after the election.[8]

Annual report

The third and final campaign finance report is the annual report. The annual report is an cumulative report that covers all campaign finance activity from the time the group was formed to December 31st. The report is due on the third Wednesday of January. If a campaign entity has neither a cash balance or any outstanding obligations at the end of a reporting period, it can file a final report fully accounting for all contributions and expenditures and marked as the final report, precluding the necessity for this annual report.[9]

Campaign advertising restrictions

Under Maryland law, all campaign advertisements must have a disclaimer. Disclaimers are defined under the law as an authority line. The line must designate who paid for the advertisement. The authority line must have the name and address of the treasurer responsible for the paid material along with the entity that paid the ad.[10] Maryland requires that advertising agencies charge issues committees the same rates as other commercial clients are for advertising.[11] All advertisements must kept on file for one year.[12]

Terminating a committee

Any Issues Committee that plans to terminate must have no outstanding reports due and have a zero cash balance. Once that requirement is met, the committee must denote the check off box on the campaign finance report as their final report.[13][14] Issues Committees can use the surplus funds to return to donations to contributors on a pro-rated basis, donate to a charity or to a accredited university to fund scholarships.[15]

External links

References

  1. [Contacted Maryland Attorney General's and Secretary of State's Office on 1-5-2010 to confirm this information]
  2. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Statute 13-208(c))
  3. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-239(1)-(2))
  4. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Sect 13-226(a)(1))
  5. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-227(b)(c))
  6. Maryland State Board of Elections, "Maryland Campaign Finance Summary Guide" (dead link)(See Section 7.3, Column 3-Transfers to and from Ballot Issue Committees)
  7. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Statute 13-309(a)-(3))
  8. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Statute 13-309(a)-(4))
  9. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Statute 13-309(b)-(2))
  10. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-401(1)-(3))
  11. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-402)
  12. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-403)
  13. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-311)
  14. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Statute 13-309(4))
  15. Michie's Resources, "Maryland Election Law"(Referenced Section 13-247)