In formal response to campaign fundraising claim, Steele says he’s complying with MD law – Maryland Matters
An attorney representing former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has filed a formal response to a complaint about his governor’s exploratory committee, dismissing an allegation that the committee is operating in violation of Maryland’s campaign finance law.
In a letter sent to the state’s electoral council on Tuesday, Steele’s attorney Charlie Spies claimed that the fundraising entity created by the former lieutenant governor for the exploratory phase of a possible campaign of governor was following Maryland electoral law.
“To date, our client has not incurred any expenses, so he could not be in violation of Maryland electoral law,” Spies told the board. “Our client is aware of the limited scope and purpose of the Scout Committees and intends to continue to comply with Maryland law.”
In August, Del. Lauren Arikan (R-Harford) filed a complaint with the electoral council, alleging that Steele needed to create a state campaign finance committee to document contributions and expenses as he weighed a candidacy for 2022 as governor.
Steele created a “527” committee – named after a provision in federal tax law that allows potential applicants to raise and spend money for limited purposes.
After Arikan filed his complaint, Jared DeMarinis, head of the electoral council’s nominations and campaign finance division, told Steele in a letter: “There are no statutory provisions that expressly authorize committees exploratory.
“However, the attorney general’s office said some exploration or ‘water testing’ activities were allowed, but only for non-candidates,” he added.
Arikan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Team Steele’s response to his complaint.
If Steele enters the race to succeed limited-term incumbent Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), he will compete for the GOP nomination against Del State. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), a supporter of President Trump; Secretary of State for Commerce Kelly M. Schulz; and frequent nominee Robin Ficker, a gadfly from Montgomery County.
Steele’s apparent lack of spending struck some observers as odd on Wednesday – a sign that he might not order polls or undertake other permitted activities for undeclared candidates.
But Jim Dornan, a Republican strategist advising Steele, said that would be a false conclusion to draw.
“He’s very serious about it,” Dornan said. “We are moving at a very deliberate pace. “
He said Steele intends to make a decision on his candidacy fairly soon. Since leaving the RNC, he has been a consultant and commentator on MSNBC, where he was most recently featured as a guest host.
Although he made history when he became lieutenant governor in 2003 and again six years later when he took over as head of the RNC, many analysts believe Steele will struggle to win over voters. Republican primaries following his endorsement of Joe Biden.
“I just don’t see him as a viable candidate in a Republican primary,” said Marc Uncapher, Maryland GOP secretary. “I would have thought at least they would do a poll to find out where they were.”
Dornan declined to say if Steele has conducted any investigations he has yet to pay for.
“You would think, at the very least, that there are polls to be done,” said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“For Steele, part of the fear has to be – he walks in, he creates a divide between the establishment wing of the party, and that helps someone like Cox. It’s the last thing he would want to do.