Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Union Linked to Independent Expenditure in District 19

A secretive independent mailing sent into District 19 is in apparent violation of Maryland campaign finance law and is linked to a union that has endorsed one of the competing Senate candidates. We expose that union’s identity today.

During the week of August 16, this mailer was sent to District 19 residents.

The mailer has no authority line, but says it came from “Defenders of the American Middle Class” at 7 Church Lane, Baltimore, MD 21208. It lists a phone number of 443-986-5280 and a website address of While the mailer mentions Senator Mike Lenett (running a positive quote about him from the Governor), it does not have any indication that it came from Lenett.

Defenders of the American Middle Class does not appear on the State Board of Elections’ website as either an issue committee or a PAC. We called the board and they confirmed that no such group had registered with them. We called the phone number listed on the mailer and were sent to an electronic mailbox. The website is one page with no contact info and two links to documents produced by the Economic Policy Institute.

Furthermore, the organization is not registered with the Secretary of State.

But the organization does have a federal non-profit filing. That filing lists the name and address appearing on the mailer, but adds two more bits of information: a contact name of Larry Rubin and a suite number of 13.

We traced the address and suite to Ira Miller and Company PA, an accounting firm.

Larry Rubin is the Communications Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters. According to its latest filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, the council paid Ira Marc Miller and Co. PA at 7 Church Lane, Ste 13, Baltimore, MD 21208 $99,750 for “CPA services” in the fiscal year ending 6/30/09. The report also states, “An outside audit is performed by independent certified public accounting firm, Ira Marc Miller and Company, P.A.”

The facts that Carpenters Union employee Larry Rubin is the non-profit registration contact and that the organization’s address matches the accountant retained by the union strongly suggests that Defenders of the American Middle Class is linked to the Carpenters. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters has endorsed Mike Lenett.

The mailer appears to be illegal in multiple ways. According to Chapter 3.1 of the State Board of Elections’ summary guide, “Political fundraising and spending is unlawful unless a Statement of Organization establishing a political committee has been filed with the State Board.” The categories of political committees are candidate campaign committees, slates, PACs, issue committees and party central committees. As we stated above, the board does not have any record of a registration of any kind by Defenders of the American Middle Class.

The summary guide also states in Chapter 3.2, “Generally, a political committee needs to be established to conduct any campaign finance activity. Campaign finance activity is raising and spending money or receiving other things of value to promote or assist in the promotion of the success or defeat of a candidate, political party or question.” Since the mailer contains a positive quote about Lenett, it is clearly designed to promote his candidacy.

Furthermore, Chapter 12.1 of the summary guide requires authority lines for campaign materials, including literature. If the material is financed by an independent expenditure, it must have an authority line including the name and address of the entity as well as “the name and title of the president, treasurer, or person responsible for the campaign material.” The mailer above does not contain this information.

We asked Senator Lenett if his campaign had anything to do with the design, production or distribution of the mailing and he said no. We asked Larry Rubin if Defenders of the American Middle Class was created and/or financed by the Carpenters. He has not responded to our email as of this writing.

We call on the Attorney General’s office to investigate Defenders of the American Middle Class and to take steps to prevent further illegal mailings.

Disclosure: The author resigned from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters last month, which is the parent organization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters.