Monday, April 20, 2009

Special Interest Contributions in the District 4 Election: Update

By Drew Powell.

Posting today around 11:00 AM, finally in is Nancy Navarro’s April 10th filing with the Maryland State Board of Elections. The BOE confirmed that the Navarro campaign accrued $100.00 in fines for this late filing. It is true that the BOE makes lots of mistakes (like Kramer’s loans), but one has to wonder, in which category does this most recent late filing fall? The possibilities are: 1.) the BOE messed up, 2.) the Navarro campaign filed late.

Consider the first possibility: The BOE makes lots of mistakes; it’s no secret that they are understaffed and asked to do a lot with a little bit of funding. They are reliant on the campaigns to do their jobs right and to preferably file using the ELECTrack system, which makes things much easier on BOE officials. It’s a big job, with lots of room for error. During the past week, I spoke with at least three different staffers in the BOE’s campaign finance division. They assured me that the problem with the late Navarro filing was not on their end. If indeed, there was some kind of ELECTrack issue, why then did the Navarro campaign not express mail or hand deliver the data on a disc? All other District 4 candidates filed on time.

Possibility two, it was the fault of the Navarro campaign: First, let’s look at history; has Navarro ever filed late? Yes. Since her first filing with the BOE in August 2006, Navarro has filed late 17 times out of 31 (inclusive of reports and audits). She has received a total of $3,120.00 of fines and penalties. On five occasions the Navarro campaign requested a BOE waiver and was denied all five times. Additionally, the BOE has requested amendments for 19 of her reports… all of this in fewer than three years.

One might ask that if Navarro can’t manage a $100K campaign, is she capable of handling a $4B county budget? One thing is for certain, when you file your campaign finance report (late) on the Friday before the primary, it can’t possibly post on the BOE/UMD web site any sooner then the Monday before the election. This means it can’t be seen by concerned voters or receive the scrutiny of the press. This looks like it was taken out of the City of Rockville’s play book, where the mayor and council recently voted to obfuscate most campaign finance data until after the City Election.

Using the data in the just-filed report, an update has been performed for the “Nancy Navarro Campaign Finance Analysis 2009 Special Election” spread sheet. In the 2008 District 4 Special Election Navarro accepted $75,000.00 (67% of her total contributions) from development related sources. During this same period last year, she garnered 15% of those development related dollars and went on to declare the remaining 85% after the primary. Between TWO groups, development related interests and unions, Navarro received 84% of all her 2008 funding. This year Navarro’s development related take is 28% thus far. I look forward to her “Pre-General and “Post-General” campaign finance reports.

What you can do? As I have mentioned, it costs a lot of money to run a successful campaign. Don’t complain if candidates take too much money from special interests, if you’re not willing to give some yourself. If only a tiny percentage of the electorate gave $10, $20 or $50 to the candidates of their choice, those candidates would not have to turn to special interests to fund their campaigns. As an over simplified estimate, every mailing piece costs about $1. If you give $50, that’s about 50 more people, who will hear that candidate’s message. What difference can that make? The 2006 District 15 race for Maryland State House was won by 152 votes. If you can’t give money, give your time. Help with phone banks, stuffing envelopes, leafleting, working the polls, etc. Remember, Democracy is a participatory sport for all citizens.