ROCKVILLE – A Maryland senator has accused Gov. Larry Hogan (R) of accepting illegal campaign contributions, prompting the state’s Democratic Party to file a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections.
In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, Senator Clarence Lam (D-12) accused Hogan of accepting campaign contributions for an aggregate total of $115,000 over the legal limit.
Lam said he discovered that several members of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) board had donated more than the $6,000 maximum allowed by state law, prompting the state Democratic Party to file a claim with the board of investigations.
“We started looking into the governor’s donor history and found there were nearly 100 individuals and entities that had donated above the campaign finance limits,” Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Smith said. “Combined, there are at least $200,000 in excessive donations that Hogan has received in apparent violation of Maryland’s campaign finance laws.”
In response to the allegations from Lam, an attorney representing Hogan denied any impropriety, saying they are politically motivated.
“This complaint is demonstrably false,” said Chris Ashby, an attorney representing Hogan. “Instead of rushing to tell the media about their shoddy political hit job, the Maryland Democratic Party’s operatives should have taken more time to examine all of our publicly available campaign finance reports and gather accurate information. Transparency and ethics were important values of the Hogan for Governor campaign, and we remain committed to them even after the election.”
Lam said that the members of the UMMS board gave money to Hogan’s campaign through individual contributions and through affiliated businesses to skirt the state’s $6,000 maximum for campaign contributions.
Lam alleged that the Hogan campaign violated campaign finance laws by accepting donations from several UMMS board members that either violated the $6,000 limit, or accepted donations from businesses connected with UMMS board members that exceeded the legal limit.
Further complicating matters, positions of the board members of USSMS are appointed by the governor. While it is not necessarily illegal to appoint campaign donors to board seats, Lam accused Hogan of having an ethical conflict with his appointees and their donations to his campaign.
“While donors receiving appointments isn’t inherently unlawful, it undermines public confidence, particularly when combined with the fact that some of these donor-appointeesm including former state Sen. Frank Kelly, Jr., appear to have received generous ‘insider’ contracts from UMMS,” Lam wrote in his June 20 Baltimore Sun op-ed.
Hogan’s counsel contends that any impropriety would be an error, and that his campaign has a history of returning illegal campaign contributions.
“Our campaign always has been and will remain committed to operating within the limits established by Maryland law, to making full and timely campaign finance disclosures as the law requires, and to correcting any bookkeeping errors promptly as we have done in the past. We look forward to the swift dismissal of this sloppy complaint,” Ashby said.
The issues with the UMMS are not new.
In March, The Baltimore Sun reported that nine members of the UMMS board had contracts with the medical system, prompting a potential conflict of interest.
The potential conflict of interest caused Hogan to “clean house,” appointing 11 new members of the board at UMMS.
In the hopes of combating this type of previewed corporation, Lam introduced Senate Bill 751, which would require potential candidates for gubernatorial appointments to disclose certain information. Hogan vetoed the bill, saying it would limit the governor’s ability to select candidates for various offices in the state.