Monday, April 20, 2009

The Strange Case of Kramer’s Mystery Money Loans… Solved

By Drew Powell.

In the April 17th post, “Special Interest Contributions in the District 4 Election” I reported that I was unable to find $42,000 in loans Ben Kramer made to himself during the 2009 District 4 Special Election.

The Maryland State Board of Elections (BOE) shows Kramer receiving $23,000.00 in loans as reported in his “Montgomery Special 2009 Pre-Primary 1 Filing” (03/24/2009) and $27,000.00 as noted in his “Montgomery Special 2009 Pre-Primary 2 Filing” (04/10/2009). The BOE also shows Kramer going from $130,450.00 in “Total Outstanding Obligations” to $180,450.00 during that same period. If you click on the “23,000.00” or “27,000.00” loan figures on either “Montgomery Special 2009 Pre-Primary Report” page it takes you to the same loan summery page 1 of 2. So far so good. This page shows loans made by Kramer to himself since March 2006 and shows ONE loan in the amount of $8,000.00 on February 11, 2009 (part of the 2009 District 4 Special Election cycle).

Now it gets interesting, at the bottom of the loan summary page, you then click on the “page 2” link. What you get is another summary page for Mr. Kramer’s contributions, NOT page 2 of the loan summary page. Try as you may, when it comes to page 2, ‘you can’t get there from here.” The link simply does not exist on the State Board of Elections web site. This leaves a difference of $42,000.00. Where are those loans? When did Kramer receive them? How many separate loans were there and in what amounts? In the April 17th post, I referred to the missing loan data as “mystery money loans.” I was told by a few folks in the know (including the BOE), that since Kramer ran for delegate, the loans could be in “other accounts.” However, there is only ONE “Friends of Ben Kramer” account and if Kramer loaned himself money, that’s where it would appear.

Finally, I started to think; what if this was a BOE database or University of Maryland web error. Don’t ask me why, but the State Board of elections commissioned the University of Maryland to provide all its web services starting in August 2006. It may have reduced the BOE’s costs and/or liability, but it certainly has increased the time it takes to get data posted by at least one to two business days (take Navarro’s late filing for example, which just posted late this morning, even though it was received by the BOE around noon Friday) and has increased the time it takes to correct errors.

After examining the link structures, I tried a manually correct link to try and pull up the missing page 2… and it worked! You can’t get to page two on the BOE/UMD campaign finance web site, but you CAN on “Maryland Politics Watch.” Click on MPW Page 2 to view. Up pops the missing $42,000.00.

The loans reported are as follows:

It looks like Mr. Kramer has a very handy checkbook. How did he make all his money again?