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Maryland’s Pre-Session Scramble for Campaign Cash Is Underway

To get ahead of the state’s fundraising freeze, which bars state elected officials from raising money during the 90-day legislative session, nearly 80 fundraising events were scheduled this week.

The entreaties from Gov. Wes Moore’s campaign started in November and have come every few days since then. The email solicitations warn of the looming “fundraising freeze” and seek quick donations.

“On January 10, MD’s fundraising freeze will take effect, meaning that Wes and I won’t be able to accept any contributions to support our campaigns as we work with the General Assembly to strengthen Maryland’s economy, health care access, public education, public safety, transportation, and so much more,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) wrote in a Dec. 30 solicitation.

“That’s why we set a $10,000 end-of-year fundraising goal for this grassroots team. Powering our movement through the freeze is no easy task, but we can do it with your support.”

Moore and Miller are hardly alone. With every state elected official barred by law from raising money during the 90-day General Assembly session, which runs from Jan. 10 to April 8, lawmakers and top statewide officers are scrambling to raise money in the hours leading up to the session’s noontime start.

The week before session starts is a particular frenzy, with almost 80 fundraising events scheduled to take place, according to lists compiled by lobbying firms, political committees and fundraising consultants and invitations viewed by Maryland Matters — most in a few-block radius near the State House.

For the next week, it will be almost impossible to walk around downtown Annapolis without passing a political fundraiser. Carry a credit card or checkbook past a half dozen venues and you will be welcomed in.

The post-New Year’s Bacchanalia begins Wednesday morning with fundraisers for Dels. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard) and Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City). It ends next Wednesday morning with a breakfast at a private home in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis for state Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard), who is running for Congress in the 3rd District.

The ban on in-session fundraising was put in place several decades ago following a series of Annapolis scandals. In the bad old days, lawmakers might find campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups on their desks before a key vote on the House and Senate floors.

The pre-session campaign cash dash only seems a tad less brazen.

Moore has at least two fundraisers on tap this week: One is a high-dollar affair at the City Club in Baltimore on Thursday morning, the other is a breakfast at the Calvert House in Annapolis next Monday.

The legislature’s two presiding officers are raising money: House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) with a breakfast on Friday at Latitude 38 in Annapolis, and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) next Monday from 6-8 p.m., at The Ruxton, in his district, in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore.

All four committee chairs in the Senate have a fundraiser scheduled between now and Jan. 9:

  • Senate Budget and Taxation Chair Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) will be marking 25 years in elective office with a breakfast Thursday at the Calvert House;
  • Senate Education, Energy and the Environment Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) will have a happy hour at Harry Browne’s in Annapolis on Thursday;
  • New Senate Finance Chair Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) has a happy hour next Tuesday afternoon from 3-5:30 p.m. at Red Red Wine Bar in Annapolis;
  • Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) has an event next Monday evening at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis, with Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) headlining.

Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate Capital Budget Committee, is also raising money, with two events: a happy hour at the Valley Inn in Timonium on Wednesday and another happy hour Thursday evening at Red Red Wine Bar on Thursday.

All six House committee chairs are raising money this week:

  • House Appropriations Chair Ben Barnes (D-Prince George’s) has an event at Calvert House next Monday evening;
  • House Economic Matters Chair C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) will be at the Federal House Bar and Grill at the Market House in Annapolis on Friday morning;
  • House Environment and Transportation Chair Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) has a happy hour next Monday evening at Harry Browne’s;
  • House Health and Government Operations Chair Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) will also have a happy hour next Monday evening at Harry Browne’s;
  • House Judiciary Chair Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) has a breakfast on tap next Tuesday at Red Red Wine Bar;
  • House Ways and Means Chair Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard), who recently abandoned a campaign for Congress, has a happy hour fundraiser scheduled for next Monday at Dry 85.

The top Republicans in the state Senate, Minority Leader Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (Upper Shore) and Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll) have fundraisers scheduled this week: Hershey’s is a happy hour on Thursday evening at The Parley Room, a relatively new watering hole just across the street from the State House, while Ready will have a breakfast at the Calvert House on Monday, roughly overlapping with the governor’s.

The top Republicans in the House, Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (Allegany) and Minority Whip Jesse T. Pippy (Frederick) have a joint fundraiser scheduled, a happy hour at Blackwell Hitch in Eastport.

Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D) conveniently scheduled one of her pre-session fundraisers for next Tuesday morning at Miss Shirley’s on West Street in Annapolis, just minutes and steps away from the big annual Maryland Democratic Party luncheon at the Westin Hotel that faces West Street. She also has an event scheduled for Sunday morning at the home of a supporter in Silver Spring.

Many seasoned lawmakers have fundraising events this week. So do newcomers who have barely had time to make an impact.

Fundraising Ban Doesn’t Apply to Congressional Contenders

The pre-session week also brings some interesting joint fundraising efforts: Next Tuesday, the six Republicans on the House Economic Matters Committee — Pippy, Christopher T. Adams (Middle Shore), Steven J. Arentz (Upper Shore), Mark N. Fisher (Calvert), Seth A. Howard (Anne Arundel) and April Rose (Carroll) — are raising money together during a breakfast at Harry Browne’s.

Also next Tuesday, four freshman delegates from Prince George’s County who serve together on the House Health and Government Operations Committee — Tiffany T. Alston, Ashanti Martinez, Deni Taveras and Jamila J. Woods, all Democrats — are holding a joint fundraiser at The Waterfront Hotel in Annapolis.

And the most conservative Republicans in the House have a fundraising breakfast at Galway Bay in Annapolis next Tuesday for their political organization, which is called the Marylanders United Slate. Donors are invited to give to individuals within the organization: Fisher and Dels. Lauren Arikan (Harford), Brian Chisholm (Anne Arundel), Robin L. Grammer Jr. (Baltimore County), Nicholaus R. Kipke (Anne Arundel), Matthew Morgan (St. Mary’s), Ryan Nawrocki (Baltimore County) and Kathy Szeliga (Baltimore County).

The week’s fundraising builds to a crescendo next Monday and Tuesday, when there are at least 20 events scheduled on each day. For years, the final fundraiser before session has traditionally been for the Women Legislators of Maryland, the oldest legislative women’s caucus in the U.S., which has been beset by partisan tensions over the past few years. That’s scheduled to take place Tuesday evening at the Calvert House. Lam’s congressional fundraiser on Wednesday morning appears to be the last before session gavels in.

Contributing to lawmakers right before the start of the General Assembly session is just one way to influence the legislative process. Lobbying firms and special interest groups make nice with lawmakers for 90 days by sponsoring multiple receptions for committees, delegations and the whole 188-member legislature.

This session, however, may not bring any relief from candidate fundraising pitches: Seven state lawmakers — Lam, Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) and and Dels. Mark S. Chang (D-Anne Arundel), Terri L. Hill (D-Howard), Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery), Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel) and Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) — are running for Congress in the May 14 primaries. They’re allowed to continue raising money for their federal campaign committees, even with the 90-day fundraising ban in place for their colleagues.

This article was first published by Maryland Matters. Read the original article here.
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