Public Financing for Campaigns Debated
A bill to provide public funding to Maryland candidates for their campaigns will be debated on the Senate floor today, a victory for advocates who lobbied hard to get the measure out of committee this week.
The goal is to make politicians less obligated to deep-pocketed campaign contributors by offering candidates money for their run for office. Supporters said they found new momentum last week after the release of secret FBI recordings in the coming corruption trial of former state senator Thomas L. Bromwell. The Baltimore County Democrat is accused of steering telecommunications legislation to help donors.
"Bromwell -- for many years the Senate's second-most-powerful member -- reveals a culture of extreme coziness with big corporate special interests," said Sean Dobson, acting director of Progressive Maryland, a nonpartisan watchdog group that has made public funding its priority for this legislative session. "Lawmakers need to prove they are not beholden to deep-pocket special interests."
Only General Assembly campaigns would be publicly financed, and candidates would not be forced to choose the public option. Candidates would have to raise $6,750 in seed money to qualify for up to $50,000 for a Senate race or $40,000 for a House of Delegates run. The change could cost the state $500,000 a year. Taxpayers could donate $5 on their income tax returns to help pay for the financing.
The measure passed the House last year but stalled in a Senate committee. The House has not taken up its version and is apparently watching for Senate action.
But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), said yesterday that he was warned by Senate leaders that the bill might be in trouble and might not get a floor vote today. It could be referred indefinitely to committee.
-- Lisa Rein
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