Maryland, like most states, has regulations regarding the raising of funds on behalf of political candidates. Effective Jan. 1, a new Maryland law prohibits the use of certain illegal campaign contributions, and directs where such funds must go.
Under the Election Law Article of the Maryland Code, Title 13, political candidates who file to run for office must raise money through a campaign finance entity, which is a political committee to be set up as required by the election law. Such committees have rules they must follow, as well as reporting requirements to the State. Among the requirements for making campaign contributions under the law, found in Section 13-602 (a)(5), is that “a person may not directly or indirectly pay or promise to pay a campaign finance entity in a name other than the person’s name.”
An individual who is convicted of violating this law is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine not to exceed $1,000, a year in prison, or both. Person’s convicted of violating this law are also ineligible to hold a public or political party office for four years from the date of the offense. However, what happens to the illegal campaign contribution?
The new statute, found at Section 13-239.1, provides that if a campaign finance entity receives a contribution from a person who is convicted of violating the requirement that contributions be made in their own name “may not use the contribution for any purpose.” Instead, the entity is required to pay the illegal contribution to the Fair Campaign Financing Fund for gubernatorial candidates. The Fund, which was created back in the 1970s, provides for public financing for political candidates who agreed to certain spending limits.
The Fund was previously funded by an income tax ad-on, as well as certain fines for violation of the election laws as well as voluntary contributions. This funding is now added as a illegal campaign contribution under this new law.