Monday, January 25, 2010

What is Michael Steele Doing with his State Account?

RNC Chairman and former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is likely out of Maryland state politics. But he continues to spend significant amounts of money out of his state campaign fund. Why?

The Michael Steele for Maryland Committee spent a whopping $176,195.51 on salaries and compensation last year. That's a huge amount for a candidate who is not running for any state office. Here are the fifteen expenditures his state fund reported.

The State Board of Elections (SBE) Summary Guide quotes state election law in discussing the allowable purposes of state campaign account expenditures.

An expenditure is defined as a gift, transfer, disbursement, or promise of money or valuable thing by or on behalf of a campaign finance entity to promote or assist in promoting the success or defeat of any candidate, political party, or a question at an election.

§ 1-101(y) of the Election Law Article

* Expenditures must be election related; that is, they must enhance the candidate's election chances, and one must be able to conclude that they would not have been incurred if there had been no candidacy.

* Expenditures, including loans, may not be for the personal use of the candidate or any other individual.

* Expenditures must be made by the treasurer, by check signed by the treasurer from the campaign bank account.

* Expenditures must be supported by receipts or vouchers, which must be kept with the treasurer's books and records.
Retired candidates often make contributions to other campaign accounts, party accounts or charities. But your author has never heard of a retired candidate spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on salaries and other payments to corporate entities. Given the controversies over Steele's collection of speaking fees and his book tour, we believe this is an appropriate matter for SBE review. And perhaps also for the Attorney General.