- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

BALTIMORE (AP) Dozens of Maryland's most prominent individuals and corporations have violated a state law that limits political campaign donations, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun.
The Sun reported Sunday that almost 40 companies and individuals have surpassed donation limits to candidates, parties and political action committees.
The list includes Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Manekin Corp. Chief Executive Officer Richard Alter.
Their total contributions exceed the maximum $10,000 that any individual or company may give to Maryland campaigns during a four-year election cycle. The current cycle began in 1999 and runs through the November 2002 elections.
Mr. Angelos donated $11,300 through his law office and $12,250 individually, according to records analyzed by the Sun.
Mr. Angelos says the excess donations are an accounting error. If a mistake was made, Mr. Angelos said, "we'll be mad as hell about it."
Several of the companies told the Sun they will be asking political parties and candidates for refunds of excess donations. They said that the laws governing campaign donations in Maryland are complicated, and that bad bookkeeping in may instances led to the infractions.
"I'm not aware of the $10,000 limit," said Edward Dopkin, co-owner of Classic Catering People in Owings Mills, who gave $11,750. "There was nothing intentional. I just didn't understand."
Some of the violators say the persistence of political fund-raising efforts in many cases led to the infractions.
Once a party or candidate identifies people as donors, they are contacted repeatedly to buy tickets to fund-raisers and make other donations.
"I'm getting solicited constantly," said David Hillman, president of Southern Management Co., a Virginia-based development and building management firm. "They never leave you alone, and it's hard to say no."
With a few exceptions, Maryland's campaign finance laws cover donations to all state campaign accounts, including candidates for state and local office, political action committees and multicandidate slates, said Ross Goldstein of the state election board's candidacy and campaign finance division.
In addition to the $10,000 limit, donors are prohibited from giving more than $4,000 to any one candidate in a four-year cycle.
Violators are subject to fines of up to $25,000 and misdemeanor penalties, said state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli.
Three years ago, the state added a provision to the statute that allows prosecutors to impose $5,000 civil fines in lieu of criminal penalties if the infraction is minor or considered inadvertent.
In the past, the daunting task of sifting through paper copies of candidates' records prevented the law from being enforced aggressively, but the new requirements for electronic filing have made the donations easier to scrutinize.
However, state officials still have not begun any examination of the records from the current cycle.
"At various times, like in an election year, we'll take a look," said Mr. Montanarelli. "We don't do it as a matter of course."
Previous reviews by the Sun have yielded fewer violations.
Four years ago, just seven companies and individuals exceeded the limits for the 1991-1994 cycle. In the current cycle, there are one company and one individual that again violated the limits Mr. Angelos and Bardon Inc., a development and construction company owned by a British firm.
John Pica, a former state senator and a lawyer with Mr. Angelos' firm, told the Sun that several donations were being returned. "This was simply an honest error," he said.
Bardon officials did not return calls.

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