Maryland Jumps to the Head of the Class

Late last night the Maryland legislature passed a groundbreaking campaign finance bill. The bill will require disclosure of independent expenditures and electioneering communications, and also force companies to report political spending to their shareholders.

April 12, 2011

Late last night, two hours to midnight, the Maryland legislature did something historic. They passed a groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure bill. Maryland had been one of a handful of states that lacked any disclosure requirements for independent spenders in elections. This left Maryland voters completely in the dark about the source of ads that praised or attacked candidates. The bill tracks policy suggestions urged by Maryland's Attorney General and those outlined in the Brennan Center's report "Transparent Elections after Citizens United", as well as testimony given by Brennan Center Counsel Mimi Marziani

The bill requires disclosure for both independent expenditures (ads which explicitly say vote for a candidate) and electioneering communications (ads that feature candidate in their districts on election eve). And Maryland adapted one innovation that puts it at the vanguard, namely it requires companies that spend in Maryland elections to report that spending directly to their shareholders. This innovation recognizes the new normal created by Citizens United — the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited corporate political spending. Maryland already allowed corporations to spend, but nation wide, Citizens United makes such spending more efficient because corporations can engage in multi-state campaigns without the old state-by-state analysis to see whether the spending was allowed.

With this bill, Maryland has declared, "No more dark elections in our state." The next step is the governor's desk.