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Election 2022

Political Notes: O’Malley and Schulz Campaigns File Complaints Over Outside Spending

An aerial view of the Maryland State House. Stock.adobe.com photo by Matthew Tighe.

Two statewide campaigns have filed complaints with the Maryland State Board of Elections after their races attracted outside spending.

On Saturday, the campaign of Katie Curran O’Malley, who is in a competitive Democratic primary race for attorney general with Rep. Anthony Brown, filed a complaint with the Maryland State Board of Elections against the VoteVets PAC, which is airing an attack ad against O’Malley.

The ad is the latest in what is becoming an acrimonious battle over bona fides in the race. In late June, O’Malley released an ad that highlighted recent endorsements by The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and her experience as a judge and prosecutor. The ad also questioned Brown’s qualifications to be attorney general. O’Malley says in the ad that Brown “never tried a criminal case in Maryland” and “doesn’t have the right experience.”

The response from the Brown campaign was swift, noting his experience with experience with complex litigation in state and federal courts, and in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

VoteVets, a progressive political action committee led by military veterans that endorses fellow veterans or national security experts who are running for office as Democrats, responded as well, calling O’Malley’s ad an attack and characterizing it as “saying his experience as a military lawyer was a disqualification for being Maryland AG.”

The claim filed by the O’Malley campaign on Saturday alleges that a financial disclosure report related to VoteVets’ $400,000 ad buy is deficient. The report includes disclosure of $275,000 in recent contributions — most of it, $250,000, from June Trone, the wife of congressman and liquor store magnate David Trone (D), a congressional colleague of Brown’s.

The claim urges the State Board of Elections to investigate.

In a statement from David Mitrani, an attorney for the VoteVets PAC, the organization said it attempted to file a complete report in compliance with state campaign finance laws, but experienced a technological issue.

“Unfortunately, a software issue on the part of the State Board has prevented VoteVets from filing a complete report, and an interim report has been filed in the spirit of transparency. We hope that this software issue will be resolved soon so that VoteVets may file a complete report.”

The O’Malley campaign doubled down on criticism of the ad Monday, calling it sexist for highlighting the word “SHAME” over a still image of O’Malley from her earlier ad.

“Women face enough barriers to running for office. When we assert ourselves, they attack us. When we assert our experience, they diminish us,” retiring Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) said in a statement. “We will not stand by silently any longer.”

The O’Malley campaign called on Brown to disavow the ad.

The Brown campaign, which said it does not coordinate with any independent spending groups, issued a statement in response:

“Veterans unfortunately often have their experience questioned, and it appears that VoteVets, a national leader in supporting progressive veterans, took issue with the negative portrayal that former Judge O’Malley has been pushing. … Congressman Brown is focused on talking with voters about his record of getting big things done for Marylanders and his vision for the Office of the Attorney General.”

Schulz files complaint against DGA

On Monday, the Kelly Schulz for Governor campaign filed a complaint related to recent a recent ad by the Democratic Governors Association that her campaign has argued bolsters her GOP campaign rival Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick).

The ad, which has been condemned by Schulz and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), calls Cox “too close to Trump” and “too conservative for Maryland.” But it also lays out some of his conservative policy positions that could be appealing to GOP voters.

The DGA is expected to spend more than $1 million on the ad, “Meet Dan,” before Election Day.

The five-page complaint letter, signed by campaign treasurer Sam Malhotra, alleges that there is “ample evidence that the DGA is not only purposefully misleading Maryland voters in violation of current Maryland law, but has also committed perjury by falsely registering their activities with the Maryland State Board of Elections.”

The Schulz campaign says the real goal of the ads, which they call “extreme political subterfuge,” is to boost a far-right candidate who might struggle in a general election. They say Maryland law prohibits “this type of deliberately misleading political communication.”

The Democratic Governors Association responded with a statement to Maryland Matters on Monday afternoon.

“This bogus complaint is just the latest desperate stunt from Kelly Schulz to cover for her failed, debate-dodging campaign. As we’ve made clear, given Trump-endorsed Dan Cox’s frontrunner status in multiple polls and radical MAGA stances, the DGA is starting the general election early and wasting no time to hold him accountable,” DGA Deputy Communications Director Sam Newton said. “Maybe instead of more excuses, Schulz should stop hiding from basic questions such as: would she support Trump if he runs for president in 2024?”

A mid-June poll from Goucher College and Baltimore Banner, the latest independent polling available in the race, showed a tight Republican primary. Most Republican voters, 44% said they were undecided in the race and 47 percent could change their mind before Election Day. Twenty-five percent of candidates said they favored Cox, while 22% supported Schulz.

“Despite these toxic tactics from the DGA, our campaign will win and remains focused on delivering real results for the people of Maryland. Nothing will stop us from continuing to move our state in the right direction to ensure that families have a safe, steady, and prosperous future in Maryland,” Malhotra ends the letter.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Tuesday to include a statement from VoteVets PAC.