Comptroller Peter Franchot Tuesday said special interest spending during the gambling special session in August highlights the need for instantaneous disclosure of campaign donations.
"I'm calling on the governor and the General Assembly to marshal forces to establish a real-time campaign finance system because I believe we need to make it clear to citizens where and how money is flowing in our political system," said Franchot, during a speech in honor of Constitution Day at Goucher College.
"The time for asking for campaign finance reform is over," said Franchot. "It's time to demand it."
Franchot said $3.6 million in spending (now nearly $5 million, according to disclosures filed with the State Ethics Commission) spent during the special session on gambling in August is a key reason for real-time campaign finance reporting.
Franchot said he believes if such a real-time reporting system were in place in August, "we would have had an entirely different outcome" from the special session.
Currently, candidates and campaign committees are required to file an annual report every January with more frequent reporting during election years. All of the reports are filed electronically and are available to the public online.
Franchot said such a real-time reporting system would put the state on the cutting edge of transparent campaign finance disclosure.
"I have a vision that Maryland will become the national, if not international, becon of light when it comes to transparency and openness in government and campaign finance," said Franchot.
There is no projected cost for such a system. The cost would have to be determined but that it should be paid for with increases in campaign filing fees and late fees for failure to file timely campaign finance reports rather than with taxpayer money, according to Len Foxwell, chief of staff to Franchot.
The real-time reporting, if it had been in place in August, would have done little to inform the public on the entities that spend nearly $5 million during the special session including Penn National, MGM Resorts, The Peterson Companies and the Building Trades for the National Harbor. Lobbying disclosures are filed separately with the Maryland State Ethics Commission and campaign donation reports are filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Franchot acknowledges his proposal is not likely to gain traction in Annapolis.
In the meantime, the comptroller will continue to file his campaign donation reports the same as everyone else—on an annual basis and more frequently during election years.
"Unfortunately, Maryland doesn't have the laws or mechanics in place to provide for real-time reporting. The comptroller looks forward to disclosing all of his campaign contributions in real time when it becomes state law," said Foxwell.