- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland state prosecutor yesterday cited and fined more than a dozen companies for breaking the $10,000 cap on political contributions, actively enforcing the state’s campaign finance laws for the first time in years.

“Our office is starting to institute a new policy of enforcing these laws,” said Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh.

Mr. Rohrbaugh recently was appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to lead the state agency charged with fighting political corruption.

“The way these things were addressed in the past did not seem to get anybody’s attention,” Mr. Rohrbaugh said.

The civil citations, which carry fines totaling $63,358, were issued to 15 companies and individuals for exceeding the $10,000 limit on combined donations during a four-year election cycle. None of the violators exceeded the $4,000 limit on donations to a single candidate.

The violations occurred in the January 1999-to-December 2003 cycle.

Among the candidates to receive the contributions were Mr. Ehrlich, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and state Sen. Alex X. Mooney, all Republicans; and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, all Democrats.

Mr. Rohrbaugh said his investigation found no wrongdoing by any of the candidates.

He said the violations did not appear willful so his office would not file criminal charges. However, Mr. Rohrbaugh said he intended to send a message with the fines, which ranged from $1,125 for the Baltimore law firm of Albertini and Darby to the maximum fine of $5,000 for Cherry Hill Construction of Jessup, Md.

Doracon Contracting was cited for violating the contribution cap in the last election cycle and in this cycle, which began Jan. 1, 2003. The Baltimore company, which made contributions to Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Busch, was fined a total $10,000.

“The message is that we intend to enforce the contribution laws in this state,” said Mr. Rohrbaugh, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore in the late 1970s before opening a general law practice in Montgomery County. “If there is an indication that there is a willful violation, we intend to prosecute criminally.”

Mr. Rohrbaugh said many of the violations came to the attention of his office through a report by Common Cause Maryland, an election watchdog group. He commended the group’s work and said his investigators would continue to review contribution records.

James Browning, the group’s executive director, applauded Mr. Rohrbaugh for reinvigorating the state prosecutor’s office. “It is encouraging,” he said. “It is a big improvement.”

Mr. Browning also said campaign finance law was “useless” under the “two-strikes-you’re-out policy” of former State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli.

Others cited and fined included Baltimore companies Amusement Vending Inc., Baltimore Marine Center, Melvin Benhoff Sons Inc., Jarvis Steel and Lumber Co., Marcorp Ltd., Munsey Building, Schafer’s Roll-Off Service Inc., and the law firm of Schochor, Federico and Staton.

Also cited and fined were Victor Frenkil Jr. of Baltimore, Anthony Manganaro of Crownsville, Todd Manganaro of Annapolis and Quantum Realty Management Inc. of Hyattsville.

The fine was based upon the amount the company or person contributed in excess of the $10,000 cap. In seven instances, the maximum fine of $5,000 was given because the contributions made during the cycle exceeded $15,000.

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