When my colleague in Virginia argues for campaign and lobbying reforms, legislators there dismiss the need with, "This isn't Maryland, you know."
Actually, we are way ahead of Virginia in the areas of election and ethics laws, but vigilance is needed to protect our fledgling reforms.
Since 1991, Maryland lobbyists have been prohibited from serving as chairs or treasurers of political committees, and from soliciting and transmitting contributions to candidates for legislative offices. Just this year the General Assembly extended that prohibition to candidates for state-wide offices.
Almost six years after the original law took effect, a suit was filed in Federal Court that alleges a lobbyist's First Amendment rights are violated by this prohibition. The party suing, Maryland Right to Life, claims their registered lobbyists must choose between their right of free speech and their right of association.
Often campaign finance issues are fought on the front pages of the newspaper, with changes enacted only after scandals are brought to the public's attention. But this issue is being battled out in court. The decision could reverse, or affirm, reforms passed by the Maryland General Assembly that prohibit lobbyists from bank-rolling state candidates' campaigns.