Big spending continues on state ballot questions -- Gazette.Net


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Maryland’s ballot issues continued to draw big donations and big spending in the past few weeks as the campaigns for and against the Dream Act, same-sex marriage and expanded gambling enter their final week.

The latest round of campaign finance reports, submitted at the end of last week, showed that both Marylanders for Marriage Equality and the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which has led efforts to overturn the state’s new law allowing same-sex marriage, have nearly depleted their war chests.

The pro-marriage equality group has spent about $4.4 million in total, and has about $70,000 in unpaid obligations. The group has a cash balance of about $22,500.

The alliance has spent a total of more than $1.5 million, with $48,000 in outstanding obligations and a cash balance of about $94,000, according to campaign finance reports.

“We've had an impressive two weeks, but this isn’t over,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said in a statement. Levin said he expects opponents to step up their spending in the final days before the election.

Educating Maryland Kids, a coalition urging voters to uphold the Maryland Dream Act, which offers in-state college tuition to some undocumented immigrants, has spent about $1.5 million in total, and has a cash balance of about $188,000.

The campaign budgeted about $1 million for a media campaign and in the final days will work to counter misinformation about the new law, said Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

“We’re in a strong position,” Ford said. “But obviously this is a crowded political climate, and there are a lot of issues getting more attention.”

The ad campaign over expanded gambling in Maryland has been dominated by MGM Resorts International, which supports expansion, and Penn National Gaming, which is opposed. MGM has put up $29.4 million to support the measure, while Penn National has put up $34 million to defeat it.

MDPetitions.com, the group that led the petition drives to put the Dream Act and Maryland’s new congressional district map on the ballot, has spent about $32,000 on a direct-mail campaign urging voters to reject the those two measures as well as same-sex marriage.

Last week, the Maryland Democratic Party alleged that the group, chaired by Del. Neil Parrott (D-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, was in violation of campaign finance law because it had not registered as a campaign finance entity.

But Parrott’s group filed its report to the State Board of Elections on Friday before the midnight deadline for the last reporting period.

dleaderman@gazette.net