Elections Supervisors Recommend Clarifying Fundraising Rules
They plan to ask the Mayor and Council to say candidates and their spouses are exempt from campaign donation limits.
After defying a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance rules just days before the election, the Gaithersburg Board of Supervisors of Elections has had a change of heart.
At their meeting last night at City Hall, the Board decided to recommend that the Mayor and Council adopt language that clarifies the City code, making it clear that candidates and their spouses are exempt from the $500 contribution limit set for the general public.
In October, the Board interpreted the City's code—which lacked language specifically exempting candidates from the donation cap—as counting candidates as "a person." Since the code said "no person" could donate more than $500 to a candidate, it followed that the candidate was subject to that cap.
However a post-Watergate U.S. Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo, specifically states that candidates can donate as much as they want to their own campaigns.
At a second meeting in late October, just days before the Nov. 8 election, the BOSE upheld their earlier ruling in a 4-1 vote, saying it was too close to the election to change their previous interpretation and they would revisit the decision afterward.
Their decision left the city vulnerable to potential lawsuits if anyone challenged their ruling.
The Board's original interpretation left many in the community stunned, and then their decision to uphold their ruling left some candidates "flabbergasted."
City Attorney Lynn Board, the staff liaison to the BOSE, said the body has heard some feedback about their decision.
"Has there been any formal complaints? No. Have there been emails and inquiries? Absolutely, yes," she said.
There was one inquiry in particular that was submitted before the election that the Board plans to review, Board said. They will discuss it at their next meeting, which will likely be held in mid-January.
The BOSE is tentatively scheduled to introduce the ammended ordinance to the Mayor and Council on Jan. 3.