Larry Hogan, Del. Ron George and Harford County Executive David Craig are all hoping to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination next month, and they're all hoping to get public campaign finance funds to do it. Larry Hogan, a former Ehrlich cabinet member and founder of Change Maryland, announced Wednesday that he is the first to cross the fundraising threshold to qualify for the $2.6 million in public funds.
But George and Craig allege that Hogan's campaign has violated the state's campaign finance laws. In a complaint filed Wednesday, they claimed that Hogan is using Change Maryland as an unofficial fundraising arm and media outlet and have failed to disclose donations and expenditures used for Hogan's campaign.
George and Craig called on the election board to investigate the relationship between Change Maryland and its founder's campaign committee and to "open Change Maryland's books" to see if the campaign violated the law.
"This is going to throw a campaign, it's going to effect the election, because one man is not following the same rules that the rest of us follow," George said at a news conference. "This is a ploy, a gimmick, and a clear violation of our campaign finance laws."
A recent poll by St. Mary's College has Hogan leading the primary race. Craig said that the issue needs to be settled in case Hogan wins the primary and becomes the Republican candidate. "I'm very concerned for the Republicans of the state of Maryland that if this complaint is not answered that it will come out in July or August and it will negatively effect our ability to win."
The Hogan campaign shot back calling the allegations "utterly absurd and patently false." In a statement, the campaign said that it bought all of Change Maryland’s assets when Hogan announced his bid for governor, and worked with the Board of Elections to stay within the law.
Jared Demarinis from the Maryland Board of Elections said he advised the campaign on the purchase of Change Maryland's assets, and that the elections board would look into the matter. If violations are found or suspected, Demarinis said the matter would be referred to the state's prosecutors. He said he could not provide a timeline for the investigation.