Md. Dems accuse conservative groups of campaign-finance violations

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The Maryland Democratic Party is accusing a conservative group of violating campaign-finance laws by failing to report its financial activities as it fights three state ballot questions.

The party announced Friday that it sent a letter this week to state prosecutors and elections officials, alleging that MDPetitions.com is functioning illegally as a ballot issue committee.

MDPetitions.com led the effort that forced next month’s referendums on the state’s redrawn congressional map and on the Dream Act, which would allow in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants.

The group also opposes a ballot question to legalize same-sex marriage and recently sent mailers to voters urging that they oppose all three questions.

Earlier this month, state Democrats also accused Help Save Maryland — a group that has bought radio ads opposing the Dream Act — of failing to report its fundraising activity.

“This is a pattern among these Republican-led organizations in Maryland seeking to influence the outcome of a ballot measure while attempting to hide from disclosure laws,” state Democratic Party Executive Director David Sloan said.

According to Maryland law, political committees that are formed specifically to advocate for a political candidate or ballot issue must register with the state before raising or spending any money and then must report their activities to the state.

The leaders of MDPetitions.com and Help Save Maryland argue that their groups were formed before any of the issues were placed on the ballot, making them independent expenditures groups, which are only required to register and file financial reports after spending more than $10,000.

Help Save Maryland Director Brad Botwin said his group has not spent $10,000, while MDPetitions.com Chairman Delegate Neil C. Parrott said his organization just recently passed the threshold and will report its spending on Friday, which is the state’s deadline.

“We’ve done nothing wrong but the Maryland Democratic Party is on a witch hunt to take out anybody who disagrees with their viewpoints,” said Mr. Parrott, Washington Republican. “They’re just shooting from the hip trying to intimidate people.”

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