Yesterday, the Montgomery County Council introduced Expedited Bill 45-21. If enacted, this bill would amend the County's public campaign finance law to permit limited "in-kind donations" from state or local central committees to publicly financed candidates. The State of Maryland is one of 14 states with a public financing option for elections. Maryland Election Law, Section 13-505 permits each county and Baltimore City to establish their own public financing system. In 2014 Montgomery County enacted Bill 16-14, which established a Public Election Fund to provide funding for Montgomery County Council and County Executive candidates. The law was amended in 2018 and recently in 2020 with Bill 31-20 and will provide public financing for the 2022 elections.
In-kind donations are defined as a contribution of a good or service other than money. The Federal Election Commission defines three types of in-kind donations:
Good and services- Offered free or at less than the usual charge.
Advances of personal funds- An individual uses personal funds (or personal credit) to pay for a campaign expense.
Coordinated communications- A committee, group, or individual pays for coordinated communication with a campaign or a candidate.
Montgomery County's bill specifically targets in-kind donations equal to or less than $10,000 from a State or a Montgomery County Central Committee of a political party. The intent of this bill is to allow central committees to display or distribute publicly financed candidates' literature under "certain conditions," though those conditions are not detailed in the legislation. Today, central committees operating in Montgomery County are prevented from displaying or distributing any literature from publicly financed candidates.
The new additions to (a) and (f) of the Montgomery County Code are bolded and underlined below.
16-26. Applicant and participating candidate restrictions.
An applicant candidate or a participating candidate must not:
(a) accept a private contribution from any group or organization, including a political action committee, a corporation, a labor organization, or a State or local central committee of a political party, except that an applicant candidate or a participating candidate may accept an in-kind contribution equal to or less than $10,000 from a State or a Montgomery County central committee of a political party;
(f) solicit funds for a State or a Montgomery County central committee of a political party; or