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By DANIEL LEADERMAN
ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 27, 2010) - Last Thursday's Supreme Court ruling, which struck down restrictions on political spending by corporations, would have no effect on Maryland state elections, according to the State Board of Elections.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that bans on political advertising financed by corporations or unions violate the First Amendment right to free speech.
"Maryland never had any sort of prohibition against corporate speech," said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections.
"Corporations were always free to make independent expenditures in the state," DeMarinis said. "They were also free to make contributions directly to candidates and candidate committees."
Thursday's decision, DeMarinis said, "would affect federal candidates in Maryland, but would have no impact on state or local candidates."
This is because corporations already adhere to the same rules as people in Maryland.
A corporation can donate up to $4,000 to any one candidate and $10,000 in total direct donations during a four-year election cycle, DeMarinis said.
But corporations can spend as much as they want on what are called independent expenditures, which include TV commercials that advocate voting against an issue or candidate.
Even after the Supreme Court ruling, federal law requires corporations to make a disclosure of independent expenditures.
"That (law) doesn't exist in the state of Maryland," DeMarinis said.
"If corporation X goes out and spends a million dollars on an ad expressly advocating the support or defeat of a candidate, we would never know that they spent the million dollars," DeMarinis said. "There's no actual paperwork that they have to file with the State Board of Elections."
Maryland law does require disclaimers on such advertisements stating the name of the organization that paid for them.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.