Baltimore County Executive James T Smith Jr. is allowed to continue to use his campaign war chest to transfer cash to candidates for election in November, according to the State Board of Elections, even though the term-limited Smith is not on the ballot.
Steve Bailey, the Republican candidate for Baltimore County State's Attorney, said in a news release that he had asked the elections board to remove Smith, a Democrat, from the “Baltimore County Victory Slate” because he's not running for office this fall. Slates essentially allow the candidates that comprise them to transfer unlimited amounts of money to one another.
The victory slate includes Bailey’s November opponent, incumbent State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, as well as several County Council and General Assembly candidates. Bailey says donations from Smith were a big help for Shellenberger in his 2006 faceoff with Bailey. Here's a list of the candidates on the victory slate.
Smith had about $967,000 cash on hand, according to a report filed early this month, but isn't running for anything. But because Smith has an active campaign committee, he remains a candidate, according to elections officials; it doesn't matter if he's on the ballot this cycle.
“A candidate is free to choose to run for a Baltimore City, county or state office with the same authorized candidate campaign committee,” Jared DeMarinis, candidacy and campaign finance director for the elections board, wrote in a letter to Bailey. “If the term 'candidate’ was limited to filed individuals appearing on the ballot, then no candidate would be permitted to fundraise or make expenditures except after filing a certificate of candidacy.”
Bailey was not satisfied with the explanation, and said in the release that he asked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s office to review the reasoning. However, a spokeswoman said the office would only weigh in if asked for advice by the elections board — which as a state agency is the attorney general’s client. Bailey could not be reached for comment.
His news release quotes attorney Jonathon Shurberg, who says, “The Board of Elections position to allow Jim Smith to participate in a slate, without filing a certificate of candidacy for public office, flies in the face of the plain language of the law. The Board of Elections interpretation creates a loophole that allows any individual, not just candidates, to circumvent the limits on campaign contributions.”
If Smith wasn't on the slate, he'd be limited to $6,000 for this election in contributions from his account to other candidates he supports.