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Suit Challenges Election Board Opinion In Maryland Governor Race

Suit Challenges Election Board Opinion

By Bryan P. Sears, In the Daily Record December 26, 2013.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of one resident from Baltimore and another from Baltimore County is seeking an injunction that would prevent Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, from continuing to raise campaign funds during the coming General Assembly session.

The suit stems from a Maryland State Board of Elections opinion last week that would allow Ulman to continue to raise money for the gubernatorial campaign even though state law prohibits Brown from doing so during the 90-day session.

Ken Ulman
Ken Ulman (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz, file)

The Dec. 19 opinion effectively bars the campaign of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey, from raising money during the session.

Attorney Daniel M. Clements filed the suit Thursday on behalf of Casey Jenkins of Baltimore and Michael Brown of Randallstown. Both are described as Gansler supporters.

Clements said in an interview that he too was “a supporter of Gansler and a contributor” but his actions were independent from the campaign.

“I’m doing this because I think Brown is not doing the honorable thing,” he said.

The suit, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, names State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone and Brown and Ulman as defendants.

It asks for an injunction preventing Ulman from raising money during the General Assembly session and preventing Lamone and the board of elections from allowing him to do so.

Clements said Brown’s decision to continue to raise money for his campaign through Ulman, based on the Dec. 19 opinion, “clearly establishes an appearance of impropriety by Brown.”

“[Brown] knows he can’t do this, so he’s sending out his henchman Ulman to do it,” Clements said.

Under Maryland law, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and all 188 members of the General Assembly are prohibited from fundraising activities during the session.

But the opinion issued by the board said that Ulman and other candidates not affected by the law can continue to raise money for the campaign even though their running mates are legally prohibited from doing so. The opinion said the law considers each running mate a separate candidate and that fundraising efforts can continue as long as they are not coordinated with the candidate who cannot raise money.

A spokesman for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General said Gansler would recuse the office from representing the Maryland State Board of Elections in this case.

“The Office of the Attorney General represents the State Board of Elections and has no conflict that would prevent the Office from representing the Board in the current campaign finance litigation,” Alan Brody said in a written statement. “However, because the matter could be seen as directly affecting the Attorney General, we have decided, just as we did before SBE released its guidance on the underlying campaign finance issue, that it would be prudent to allow SBE to retain outside counsel. Accordingly, as provided by statute, the OAG will approve SBE to hire outside counsel to represent the Board in this lawsuit.”

A Brown campaign spokesman and board of elections director Lamone did not respond to requests for comment.

“The board of elections clearly got it wrong,” Clements said.

Clements, a partner in the firm of Salsbury Clements Bekman Marder & Adkins LLC, said in the lawsuit that an “agency exists between Ulman and Brown.”

“Defendant Ulman’s campaign for lieutenant governor only exists in conjunction with defendant Brown’s campaign for governor, and any campaigning activities — including fundraising — are done for the benefit of and under the direction and control of defendant Brown and the Brown Ulman gubernatorial campaign,” the lawsuit states.

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