Public Financing of Elections Considered Tuesday By Baltimore County Council
When Larry Hogan ran for governor the first time in 2014, he financed it by tapping a state public campaign fund.
The Baltimore County Council Tuesday will consider a similar fund for county candidates. It will also debate whether to establish an Office of Ethics and Accountability.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski wants county taxpayers to pay for the election fund, that could be used by candidates running for county council or county executive. The idea is to give candidates who don’t have deep pockets a shot of winning.
Olszewski said, “It’s a great way to combat the influence of special interests and big money in politics. And it provides an alternative for those seeking office and for citizens to hold their government accountable.”
Olszewski himself spent more than $1 million getting elected county executive last year.
The administration estimates the fund would cost $4.3 million every four-year election cycle.
Olszewski said, “If you think about it as a one-time expense over a four-year cycle, and how foundational the integrity of our elections and the ability to have access to be part of the electoral process is, I think there are few things we could be better served spending money on.”
Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones, a Democrat, opposes Olszewski's proposal. Jones calls it a $4 million giveaway.
"I do not support giving public tax dollars to candidates," Jones said in a statement. "I think it is not an appropriate use of tax dollars."
The county council will discuss the issue Tuesday and is expected to vote on it Monday, March 18. It it’s approved, it would then go on the November 2020 ballot for voters to decide the issue. If the voters then give it the thumbs up, the fund would need to be in place in time for the 2026 election.
Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have similar programs.
The county council Tuesday also will consider a proposal from Olszewsk that would create an Office of Ethics and Accountability. The office would work independently of the county executive and county council. It would have the power to launch criminal, civil and administrative investigations, including allegations of fraud and abuse in county government.