Campaign Finance and Disclosure Laws Change

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Had enough of the 2014 Maryland election? The new year will be here soon, and Jan. 1, 2015 begins a new four-year election cycle. With the new year, changes to Maryland’s campaign finance and disclosure laws take effect:

Contribution Limits – The amount of funds that an individual or business entity may contribute to a candidate for state or local office or a state PAC in a four-year cycle is increased from $4,000 to $6,000. An individual or business entity may contribute up to $6,000 to as many candidates or PACs as they wish during a four-year cycle.

Aggregation of Related Entities – The prior law requiring aggregation of contributions by corporations under at least 80 percent common ownership is expanded to include LLCs, partnerships, sole proprietorships, and REITs. Contributions by two or more business entities will be considered to be made by one contributor if: (1) one business entity is a wholly owned subsidiary of another; or (2) the business entities are owned or controlled by at least 80 percent of the same individuals or business entities. A business entity must notify the political committee in writing at the time a contribution is made if an affiliated business entity has made a prior contribution to the committee during the current four-year election cycle.

Doing Business with Government – Although individuals or business entities typically need not file reports with the State Board of Elections for contributions made to candidates or PACs, reports must be filed if the person conducts specified amounts of business with state or local governments in Maryland. Effective January 1, 2015, an individual or business entity with a contract for over $200,000 with a state or local government in Maryland must file a report electronically with the State Board of Elections detailing any contribution of $500 or more to candidates or elected officials of a government body with which they are doing business. Reports are due by February 5 and August 5 for the preceding six month period ending January 31 and July 31. Reportable contributions include contributions made by the business entity, a subsidiary of the business entity, or an officer, director or partner or the business entity or its subsidiaries.