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Factoring slates into the Prince George's campaign finance picture

Jonathan Mummolo

Numbers are still trickling in from Wednesday's campaign finance reports, but at first glance, it appears Rushern L. Baker III's campaign committee has a good chance of putting up the biggest contribution total among candidates for Prince George's County Executive. According to a statement released by his campaign, Baker raised more than $550,000 in the past year, paid all his debts, and has more than $300,000 cash on hand.

But the activities of the candidates' campaign committees are not enough to tell who's up and who's down when it comes to finances. That's because in addition to their personal fund raising committees, many candidates are also members of slates--collections of candidates who pool money together. Because the money is pooled, it's extremely difficult to gauge the precise extent of a slated candidate's financial support.

Here's an example. County Council Member Samuel H. Dean's personal campaign committee's latest finance report is now online, and at first look, it appears Dean, who is also running for county executive, is in financial trouble. His committee raised just $1,000 last year, spent more than $32,000, and due to a prior account balance, ended up with only $5,623.54 cash on hand.

BUT, Dean is also a member of several slates, which have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One slate, the Servants of the People of Unity Slate, raised over $105,000 last year, and has over $135,000 cash on hand. Another, the Community Coalition Advocacy Slate, took in virtually no money last year (aside from about $665 in bank interest), but has a cash balance of nearly $230,000. (To make matters more confusing, one of the members of that slate is a rival county executive candidate, Sheriff Michael A. Jackson.)

So, even though Dean's personal campaign committee raised next to nothing last year, his campaign potentially has access to huge piles of cash via his slates. Given that, Baker, who is not a slate member, could easily company in the money race.

A side note: Slates have long been seen as a loophole for County Executives and County Council members to skirt rules that bar contributions from developers. In Prince George's, sitting County Council Members and County Executives are barred from accepting contributions from developers with pending project applications with the county, UNLESS the donations are made to slates. Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D) filed a bill last year to try to lift the ban for Council Members, but was unsuccessful.

By Jonathan Mummolo  |  January 20, 2010; 2:54 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County  
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What kind of slate has one person? Servants of the People of Unity Slate definitely looks like he's exploiting the loophole. Plus, Exum is on the other slate w/ him. I certainly hope expanding the access of developers is not a part of Deans agenda.

Posted by: Mike2003 | January 21, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to the author, the real story is the solid numbers posted by Gerron Levi. A virtual unknown county wide, compared to Dean & Baker, and as I understand, she has been at it only for a few months. It appears that she is planting the seedlings of a grass roots effort. It should be an interesting summer.

Posted by: mdfldr | January 22, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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