In case you missed it, County Executive Calvin Ball recently issued a “Statement regarding the Citizens Election Fund” on and for the official the Howard County Public website. That sounds reasonable—until you read it. His statement is a strong personal political attack on his opponent in the upcoming election—Allan Kittleman.
This use of a County communications platform is both unethical and very probably a violation of campaign finance laws. But maybe Executive Ball plans, in the name of fairness, to offer Mr. Kittleman an opportunity to publish his response on the Howard County website. Even if he does, a government website is not the appropriate platform for such debate.
The Republican Central Committee cannot and does not favor one GOP candidate over another prior to the primary. Mr. Kittleman is currently running against Darren Vilus to be the Republican candidate for County Executive. The deadline for filing has not passed, and it is possible there will be more candidates in the race. We will not give preferential treatment. But we will call out violations of campaign ethics and misuse of County resources for personal gain, and we will correct misinformation about any party candidate.
In this case, it is incorrect of Dr. Ball to imply that candidates who did not support the Citizens’ Election Fund are ineligible to use it.
Ball claims that because Allan Kittleman campaigned against the 2016 referendum (Question A) which authorized the creation of the Citizens’ Election Fund and also vetoed the 2017 Public Financing bill (CB30), he must pretend that the law doesn’t exist. This is nonsense. It’s like legislators who voted for a failed term limits bill being expected to leave office as if the legislation had actually passed. The point of such legislation is to change the system going forward. Term limits prevent people from using elected office as a career instead of the public service it was intended to be. Public financing reduces the influence of deep-pocketed contributors. In any case, once legislation is passed, it is required that all elected officials be bound by it, and appropriate that they take advantage of any assistance it offers.
While in the Maryland State Senate, Mr. Kittleman supported and voted for HB 1499, the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013. That act enabled local jurisdictions to establish public campaign finance programs such as Howard County’s Citizens Election Fund (CEF).
His only reason for opposing CB30-2017 was his concern over the use of taxpayer revenue to fund the program. As he noted in his veto letter to the County Council dated June 13, 2017:
“I have always been in favor of public financing of elections, as long as donations are made voluntarily and not from taxpayer funds. For years, I have made these donations myself by checking off a box when filing my tax returns.”
He lost that policy dispute when the Council overrode his veto, but it never changed his support for public campaign finance programs. And it does not make him ineligible to participate in the system.
He is using the program today, despite his concerns over funding, because it at least accomplishes its intended goal of reducing the influence of wealthy contributors. We, the Republican Central Committee of Howard County, ask Dr. Ball why he is not using the program—the very program he led the fight to create when he was County Council Chairman? And why is he violating County Communications Policy by using the County website as his personal campaign apparatus?
Could it be that Dr. Ball plays by nobody’s rules but his own?