Help me with an ethical dilemna.
According to Maryland Election Law which can be found in a summary format under Chapter 7 – Contributions and Transfers
7.4 In-Kind Contributions
An in-kind contribution includes any thing of value (except money). For example, a person can contribute bumper stickers to a candidate’s committee. The amount of the contribution equals the fair market value of the bumper stickers. An in-kind contribution counts towards the donor’s contribution limits.
Services provided to a campaign can also be considered an in-kind contribution if the type of service is one that the person normally charges for providing.
- Ms. Daisy Designer, a commercial artist, designs a logo for John D. Candidate, free of charge. Since designing logos is something Daisy would normally charge $1,000 for doing, Daisy has made an in-kind contribution of $1,000 to John D. Candidate’s committee. This $1,000 counts toward Daisy’s contribution limits discussed in Chapter 7.2 of this Summary Guide.
- Daisy Designer still wants to do more to help John D. Candidate. She volunteers to stuff envelopes and answer phones at John D. Candidate’s campaign headquarters. Since stuffing envelopes and answering phones is not a service that Daisy normally charges for providing, her activities are not considered to be an in-kind contribution to the campaign.
If a “public relations executive” volunteered as a “Communications Director and a Senior Advisor” on a Maryland candidate’s election would that be considered an in-kind donation? How much would be charged for those services in the “real” world? Of course it depends on what exactly a Communications Director/Public Relations Executive did for the candidate and how much time that person put into the campaign. Is that person’s expertise as a “Communications Director” in anyway related to their expertice as a “public relations executive”? And of course would those services and time be worth more than what is permitted by campaign finance law?
7.2 Contribution Limits
A person can contribute no more than $4,000 to one campaign finance entity, and a total of $10,000 to all campaign finance entities, during the four-year cycle.
Now if the services provided are related to the person’s profession experience and something they would normally charge for then:
- it should simply appear as a line item on the candidates finance reports, and
- if they exceed the contribution limits the candidate would be obligated to pay the difference to the volunteer and also note that on the campaign finance report.
However, I don’t note any such expenditures or contributions on the candidate’s financial reports. Now the “volunteer” didn’t do anything wrong. They worked for the candidate they felt was the best person for a specific elected office. That is to be commended. However, the candidate accepted services from this volunteer and they would know if the services that the volunteer provided actually met the standard of in kind donations.
If you noticed something this troubling what would you do? I am open to suggestions on that question. Any idea how the Maryland State Board of Elections would handle such a violation before I ask them?