Group Working to Get People to Vote for a Change in County Government has $14,498 for Campaign

Friends for Charter of Cecil County, the group running a campaign to convince people to “vote yes for change in county government” has filed a financial report with the Maryland Board of Elections.  The organization shows contributions valued at $14,498, consisting of $11,970 in cash and $2,525 from in-kind contributions.

Of the $11,970 in direct cash, there were two sources of revenue, money given to the committee ($10,510 from 31 sources) and ticket purchases ($1,460 from 28 sources). The ticket sales, the “Schneckenburger Fundraiser,” was the other category.  Twenty-eight (28) tickets were sold raising $1,460.  The largest amount was $160 and the smallest was $5.

One area of particular interest is the “See Cecil Bus Tour.”  The Office of Economic Development arranged for the group trying to influence voters on the ballot question to escort visitors around the county and the undertaking made a profit to aid the campaign.  The state report lists  $2,700 as contributions for the visit.  An earlier spreadsheet from the Friends indicated $8,900 in cash receipts for the “See Cecil Bus Trip” and receipts after expenses of $6,787.  There were outlays of $940 for the bus and $1,173 for a luncheon, according to the earlier document. 

Donation of goods and services in lieu of cash are listed as in-kind.  The Connections Marketing Group, the publisher of the Cecil Guardian, donated $875 in advertising space in the weekly newspaper while Columbia Bank paid for billboard rental space valued at 1,200. 

Larger corporate donations are largely underwriting the campaign.  Of the $10,510 listed by the committee as cash contributions, 81% came from seven corporations, which included one local financial institution (Cecil Bank) and one construction company (REM Construction Group) with a county address.  The other five larger donors were developers with addresses outside the county.   Beyond that cash contributions came from 28 small donations, ranging from $5 to a high of $200.

The following are the source of donations over $250.

REM Construction Group, Rising Sun, MD.   — $1,500.

Cecil Bank, Elkton, MD.  $1,000 (Bus tour)

Clark Turner Signature Homes, Belcamp, MD  $1,000

Gemcraft Homes, Forest Hill, MD.  $1,000

Ryan Homes, Reston, VA.  $1,000

Lin-Mar Development Corp, Fallston, MD.   $1,500

Richmond American Homes, Columbia, MD   $1,500

The state required financial report and stories published elsewhere raised more questions and we are seeking answers.  First, we’d like to reconcile the two different reports related to expenses and income on the bus trip.  In addition, other published reports raise questions about the connection between county government and the advocacy group, so we’re still working on this story.  Look for updates as more information becomes available.

Click here to review the detailed state report, including a list of all contributors.


2 responses to “Group Working to Get People to Vote for a Change in County Government has $14,498 for Campaign

  1. We are asking for additional information as a resulting of examining the latest report and will provide updates as data becomes available. For the Friends of Charter, we’re trying to understand the difference between the two reports as it concerns the bus tour. The group has been open in responding to our queries and there’s probably some reasonable and logical explanation so we should have that info at some point.

    Published reports elsewhere raise questions about how involved the county was in this process. We’ve said many times, our investigation showed that there was no direct outlay of county cash. The question concerns whether a department of local government should be selecting a group seeking to sawy voters in anything to do with the ballot to handle an event, especially as it will raise a profit for the organization trying to influence voters. We’d have that same question regardless of whether it was pro and anti-charter (one doesn’t exist as far we know) or for or against any candidate.

    Since questions keep getting raised about this relationship, we’re digging deeper and seeking documents and additional comments. We’ll update that too as it becomes available since documentation is going to be important for understanding the relationship. We’re also sourcing that from angles outside county government.

  2. News Update From Someone Noticed

    We had some additional information come in since our Sunday news update. And since the Cecil County informal communications network is so efficient, we thought we’d just post these quick jottings here so readers doen’t think we’re withholding info. (Howard Roark, on an earlier news story, wrote in asking why we were holding up info after we had an interview with the Director of Economic Development last week.)
    So we’ll put these bullet points together to ease any worries about covering both perspectives since this thing is confusing enough as one tries to get to a few basic questions pinned down about the arrangement.
    The Friends of Charter has consistently been responsive to any questions we’ve had about finances, always answering in a helpful, timely fashion. In reference to the question, about why the difference in revenue and profits between the late Sept. spreadsheet and the financial disclosure report as it concerns the bus tour, here is the answer.
    All the corporate donations listed as contributions were for the bus tour. While all the financial data was there, the lists simply didn’t have the “See Cecil Bus Tour” listed as the purpose of the contribution. We thank the Friends for being open throughout this process and helpful as we continue digging into the story, that continues growing a little more confusing from other perspectives (not the Friends).
    Commissioner Hodge, as he always does, repsonded promptly to our queries too and provide info to help understand this from the county’s governance level. The board was not aware of that this was happening and they do not know why this one tour became a source of profit. Commissioner Hodge said it was his preference that there be no connection between county government and any group involving in a campaign. We’ll sketch those comments about more too as we get around to a more formal update, but we also thank Commissioner Hodge for being responsive and obtaining answers to any questions we’ve had on any subject.
    The final area, internal to county govt, that we’re working on is from the Dept. of Economic Development. We’ve had additional questions out and some exchanges to those over the weekend. The responses have raised some additional questions, which were answered, but before we complete this component we want to verify/clarify some of the comments. As soon as we get verification from Economic Development that we understand their statement or need better clarity, we’ll share that.
    We’re also working on some of this with requests external to county government since it will help us understand the relationship.
    We want to repeat, there there was no outlay of direct county money to support the tours. The questions center around what was the invovlement of Economic Develoment in selecting a group trying to influence the vote for the bus tour nd how did this one become a source of profit. That’s really the core of questions right now and as we understand it better, we’ll share whatever that understanding is as we verify things

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