Today, the State Board of Elections lifted the aggregate limits on the total amount that any individual could donate on state races in Maryland. Previously, donors could give only $10,000 total in any four-year election cycle. That is no longer the case.
This change is not due to a shift in Maryland law but to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which invalidated the federal limits from the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The $4000 limit on the amount that can be donated to a single state candidate in Maryland remains in place–for now. This limit will increase to $6000 after the 2014 elections.
Lobbyists and wealthy people can expect to be hit up even more as they can no longer plead that they’ve maxed out. It’s also an invitation to extremely wealthy individuals who want to expand their influence in Maryland politics. Common Cause (h/t) outlined their view in a statement:
The State Board of Elections issued guidance today that eliminates the aggregate limits for campaign donations. This guidance was anticipated as the state grapples with the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon, which was released last week.
“Before this guidance came out, donors could only give $10,000 for all their political spending – to candidates, political action committees, and slates,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “Eliminating that limit will have a direct and alarming influence on Maryland’s political landscape starting with this year’s election. The cost to run for office – particularly for down-ballot races, such as Delegate and County Council, will increase exponentially as a result.”
“The last defense we have against big money influencing our elections is the individual limit on donations to candidates,” said Bevan-Dangel. “We are very concerned about how the Board’s guidance will be implemented to ensure that donors do not use slates and political action committees to skirt that last line of defense.”
Individual limits are currently $4,000 but will increase to $6,000 starting in 2015.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC was Citizens United round two, further opening the floodgates for the nation’s wealthiest few to drown out the voices of the rest of us,” said Bevan-Dangel. “This decision makes alternative fundraising mechanisms, such as public funding for elections, even more critical. Public funding empowers more diverse candidates to run because it gives an alternative to major donor fundraising. And it empowers everyday citizens to engage in the political process because it leverages their small donations and turns them into major donors.”
“We hope that the McCutcheon case spurs Montgomery County to act quickly on the public funding bill under consideration and encourages other counties and the state to establish alternate funding sources to ensure that the extremely wealthy cannot drown out the voice of everyday citizens in our political process.”