Gansler backers seek to block Brown campaign fundraising during legislative session

Lawsuit says Maryland governor candidate, running mate are ‘one team, inseparable’

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Supporters of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s bid for governor filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block his rival’s campaign from fundraising during the state’s fast-approaching legislative session.

The State Board of Elections last week said Howard County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman, running mate of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, could collect funds through the 90-day legislative session — when those who hold statewide offices and members of the state legislature would be banned from doing so.

In a lawsuit filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, attorney Daniel Clements argues on behalf of two Maryland residents that any fundraising by Mr. Ulman is analogous to allowing Mr. Brown to collect campaign money.

“The two positions are one team, inseparable, coordinated and working together by law and by their filing,” Mr. Clements wrote in the lawsuit. “The two positions do not require separate votes to be cast at the ballot box, and in fact, there is only one button to push, one lever to pull, or one box to mark, containing first the name of the candidate for Governor and right below it in the same box the name of the Governor’s selected candidate for Lieutenant Governor.”

The ability to raise money during that time could put Mr. Brown and Mr. Ulman at an advantage since neither Mr. Gansler nor his running mate, Delegate Jolene Ivey of Prince George’s County, would be allowed to do so under state law. The two campaigns will face off against one another in less than six months for the Democratic Party nomination.

A third candidate, Delegate Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, can continue to raise money despite the ban because she agreed to accept public matching funds in exchange for limiting her campaign spending.

Mr. Clements, who said he is a supporter of Mr. Gansler but did not file the lawsuit on behalf of the campaign, took issue with the elections board’s decision and asked the court to intervene.

The decision, issued Dec. 19, states that while aspects of candidacy for governor and lieutenant governor are “operated in cooperation and coordination,” that “Maryland campaign finance law clearly considers them separate candidates.”

Mr. Clements has asked for an expedited hearing in the case in order to resolve the matter before the start of the legislative session. The Maryland legislative session begins Jan. 8 and ends April 7 — taking up a significant amount of time leading up to the June 24 Democratic primary.

If a hearing is not held before the start of the session, however, Mr. Clements said he hopes that Mr. Ulman will hold off on collecting money until the case can be resolved.

“He’s trying to find a loophole and that’s not the honorable thing to do,” Mr. Clements said.

Neither the State Board of Elections nor the Brown campaign returned calls seeking comment.

The campaign last week issued this statement about Mr. Ulman: “The county executive has said all along that he would follow the letter of the law as interpreted by the Board of Elections, regarding any fundraising he does during session.”

Mr. Gansler’s campaign spokesman said that by collecting money during the legislative session the Brown-Ulman campaign would be keeping the “pipeline of special-interest money flowing.”

“I’m no lawyer, but at a minimum it is unethical for their Lt. Governor candidate on their ticket to continue fundraising and by reading the statute it looks to be illegal,” Mr. Gansler’s spokesman Bob Wheelock said in an email. “Brown-Ulman filed as a team with the State Board of Elections and by definition, are coordinated.”

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