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In kind…

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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:

  1. it should simply appear as a line item on the candidates finance reports, and
  2. 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?


Posted in Fundraising, General, Maryland | 33 Comments »

The Authority on Campaign Ads

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, August 14, 2006

Update: I got an email from a reader who confirmed that they saw this ad too.

This is a rather nebulous post.

Who is aware of the nuances of campaign finance law?  Hopefully, our candidates for public office are.  I would imagiine that if one ran before or for the first time they would thoroughly read the campaign guide provided by the State or Local board of elections.

With that said I need to go to the Double T diner on Rt 40 (near Bethany Lane) in Ellicott City and check this out for myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fundraising, Howard County | 1 Comment »

Funds flowing for 2006 races

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Larry Carson had more to say about fundraising.

I think it is important to know who where the money is coming from. That is all it tells us though. It doesn't mean that those who give money get influence in return.

Development is a hot button issue in Howard County. Without a PLAN development can overstress our infrastructure (schools, roads, sewers, public safety, etc). To many people development is a four letter word.

Developers are an important part of this community. Some are practical and thoughtful about the community and others are thoughtful about squeezing every dollar they can out of an acre of land. Because they have such a large impact on the quality of life in any community they should have a strong voice in community and government affairs. Our elected officials need to balance out a lot of competing priorities and arguements.

Killing Comp-Lite last year was the right thing to do.

What I would like to see in Larry Carson's next article is how the Department of Planning and Zoning is being run. Who is exerting undo influence in that department? Our elected officials are supposed to stay out of the day to day business of Planning and Zoning. I want to know are they keeping their hands off the department or are they exerting their influence in those processes?

Look at Clarksburg in Montgomery County.. Could that or is that happening in Howard County?

In the end, I am not anti development or anti developer. We need a strong partnership that will better the community. We don't need undue influence.

Posted in Fundraising, Howard County | Leave a Comment »

County Exec Fundraising Part II

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, January 20, 2006

Merdon Campaign Finance Analysis

Total raised from January 2005 to January 2006: $177,627
Organizations: $107,576 (60%)
Individuals: $70,051 (40%)

Total raised in December and January: $89,189 (50% of all 2005 activity)
December: $20,535.00
January: $68,654.00

Organizations: $55,874 (31.5% of all 2005 activity)
December: $16,685
January: $39,189

Individuals: $33,315 (18.8% of all 2005 activity)
December: $3,850.00
January: $29,465.00

Those associated with Real Property (developers, contractors, etc): $30,100.00 in 2005 representing 28% of total organization contributions and 17% of total contributions.

Geographic Breakdown

Organizations: $40,697 (23%) of his funding comes from outside the County.
Individuals: $20,925 (12%) of his funding comes from outside the County.
Total: $61,622 (35%) of his funding come from outside the County

I am not making any comments here. Compare the numbers to Ulman's, keeping in mind that Merdon outraised Ulman.

Relative to my earlier post and the Baltimore Sun article – you be the judge.

Posted in Fundraising | Leave a Comment »

County Exec Fundraising

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, January 19, 2006

Before we can get a look at the most recent Campaign finance reports for our presumed County Executive Candidates here is the balance each campaign reported as of January 19, 2005:

Merdon: $89,605.00
Ulman: $49,246.00
Dunbar: No Report

Ulman's January 18, 2006 report is already posted and reports $196,000. Where did he ge another $150 Gs?

What is widely expected to be an expensive race (over $500,000 per candidate) fundraising remains a key factor. Ulman looks in good position.

The Baltimore Sun reported today that Merdon has over $222,000 in his campaign war chest.

Larry Carson's article in the Sun is slanted.

"Both candidates got money from development interests, and they said that is not a

Carson goes on to report in some detail on Merdon's relationship with developers while mentioning only one contribution from a builder to Ulman.

"Merdon also got several large contributions, including $6,500 from local businessman J.P. Bolduc and his wife, plus $6,250 from two of Bolducs' family businesses. Another $6,500 came from a combination of personal and corporate gifts from the Lundy family. Builder Harry J. Lundy has been involved in several county campaigns. Merdon got $1,000 from Nick Mangione, whose family owns Turf Valley where development plans have stirred controversy."

Is that a hatchet job or what? No where does he detail the contributions from developers and related interests that Ulman has received. Is the reader left with the impression that Merdon is closer to developers than Ulman? I think so…

In the interest of being fair and balanced lets take a closer look at Mr. Ulman's finance report.

Ken Ulman Fundraising Analysis January 2005 thru January 2006 (I have rounded the numbers).

Total raised $165,000
Organizations: $79,500
Individuals: $85,500

After declaring he is a candidate for Howard County Executive it seems as though fundraising picked up extensively:

Total raised December and January: $122,300 (74% of all 2005 activity)

Organizations: $63,700 (38% of all 2005 activity)
December: $39,400
January: $24,200

Individuals: $58,700 (35% of all 2005 activity)
December: $31,000
January: $27,700

When reviewing the contributions of Organizations I attempted to identify those organizations with an interest in development (a big issue in Howard County).

These are not excluded to strictly developers, but include any entity with an interest in Real Property in Howard County. They could be real estate agents, title companies, mortgage companies, etc.

In this category in the 2005 period Ulman raised $29,700. Far more than what Larry Carson would lead you to believe in his article.

December: $20,000
January: $4,000
This represents 37% of total organization contributions and 18% of total contributions.

In reviewing the breakdown of contributions geographically

Organizations: $29,620 (18%) of his funding comes from outside of Howard County
Individual: $39,500 (24%) of his funding comes from outside of Howard County.
Total: $69,120 (42%) of his funding comes from outside the County.

It pays to have a great mailing list.

I couldn't get any reports from the State Board of Elections this morning. When I do I will post a Merdon analysis.

Posted in Fundraising | Leave a Comment »