- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Another attempt to force Charles County officials to reveal the people behind corporate campaign donations failed Tuesday in a 2-3 vote, three months after the board removed a similar provision from its updated ethics regulations.
The bill would have required candidates for elected office to list the principals of limited liability corporations, limited liability partnerships and other entities that donated to their campaigns.
The idea has been championed by commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) because she says sophisticated donors use corporations to hide their contributions in local races.
With zoning and development issues prominent in county politics, it should be easy to see if developers have donated to commissioner candidates, she said.
“This [original ethics] bill doesn’t have a whole lot of teeth in it if you come right down to it. … My rationale in adding this [is] — we were talking about ethics and then it was determined to be best [addressed in] a separate bill — was so much of what we do has to do with land use decisions. It would certainly be welcome to the citizens, this extra step of transparency,” Kelly said.
No local government in Maryland has a similar rule, County Attorney Barbara Holtz said.
But Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said Charles County could go first.
“I don’t see anything wrong with Charles County being a trendsetter in transparency as it relates to campaign finance. This is very transparent. I think … that the community would be interested in seeing who contributes to all of our campaigns,” he said.
Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D) remained opposed to the bill, though he said he was willing to examine the ideas behind it.
“I just think this proposal is again inconsistent with anything being done in the entire state. I still maintain that position,” Collins said.
Kelly urged the board to send the matter to public hearing despite misgivings, as concerns could be addressed later.
But the majority declined.
“I think what we now know is that it’s ill-advised,” Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) said.
“Let me correct you. I don’t hear anybody saying it’s ill-advised. That may not be the right word,” Kelly interrupted.
“It is ill-advised. … It does not make sense for us to give it to the public when we don’t feel it makes sense,” Davis replied.
Only Robinson and Kelly voted for the bill. But it may return in some form, as Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) said he welcomed more information about the concept.
“I don’t have a problem with this,” he said.