Letter: Montgomery’s Campaign Finance System Skews Fundraising Figures

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Regarding the Jan. 16 article “An Early Peek at Campaign Finance Reports,” note that it may be misleading to compare Marc Elrich’s cash on hand on a one-to-one basis with other executives’ totals. Doing so could produce a flawed picture of the financial health of the Montgomery County executive’s campaign due to a stricture imposed by Montgomery County’s public financing law.

Under that law, “Within 30 days after the County Board certifies the results of the general election, a participating candidate must return to the Fund any unspent money in the candidate’s publicly funded campaign account” (Sec. 16-24(d)).

This means that candidates who might seek re-election in Montgomery must start fundraising and budgeting from scratch shortly after the general election. So, in Montgomery, Elrich, must start again at zero while executives in other counties can build and hold surplus campaign funds between general elections.

For basic expenses, such as maintaining a website and storing materials in the interim, this can be problematic –unless the goal is to obliterate any sign of, or contact point for, county campaigns in the time before pre-primary activities begin in earnest.

It might be an area of Montgomery’s relatively new public financing system that could be revised to reflect reasonable, minor expenses of campaigns for four year terms.

— PAUL B. ELLIS
The writer is a lifelong resident of Montgomery County who has been involved in Maryland political campaigns since 2015.