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O'Malley, Franchot Donor Fined $119,000

Baltimore movie maker James G. Robinson has agreed to pay $119,000 in fines for excess contributions made to the campaigns of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), the Office of the State Prosecutor said today upon anouncing one of the largest such penalties in Maryland history.

Robinson was the sole stockholder in 20 corporations that collectively gave $125,000 in campaign contributions during the last election cycle, the prosecutor's office said. Under Maryland law, contributions by coporations owned by the same stockholders are considered one entity and may give no more than $4,000 to a candidate and no more than $10,000 total during an election cycle.

The Robinson-controlled companies gave $34,000 to O'Malley's campaign comittee and another $58,000 to a separate campaign account mantained by O'Malley's running mate, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), between Oct. 6 and Oct. 23, 2006, the prosecutor's office said. Robinson and companies under his control gave $37,000 to Franchot during the same period.

James Ulwick, a lawyer for Robinson, did not immediately return a phone message.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh said in a statement that he brought civil rather than criminal charges against Robinson because there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he intentionally violated the law.

The rule that treats corporations with the same stockholders as a single entity does not apply to other types of businesses, such as limited liability companies.

In Maryland, limits on giving by businesses are routinely circumvented by people who set up multiple limited liability companies that each give the maximum allowed to the same candidate. Robinson's businesses were set up as corporations, however.

Robinson is the chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Creek Productions. His credits as a producer include "The Good Shepherd," "Man of the Year" and two "Ace Ventura" films.

While making his contributions, Robinson, who is also an importer, was pursuing a federal lawsuit and Federal Maritime Commission complaint against the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The dispute centered on a lease renewal at the Dundalk Marine Terminal.

In August, O'Malley's campaign treasurer returned nearly $100,000 in contributions to Robinson, including some apparently that did not occur during the period cited by the state prosecutor today.

"As we said a few weeks ago when we realized these contributions violated campaign law, we moved quickly to return the funds," said O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

A campaign aide to Franchot said he, too, intends to return execess contributions from Robinson, including an additional $21,000 in donations received after the election.

By John Wagner  |  October 5, 2007; 2:43 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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