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Tracking candidates' campaign spending is not an easy exercise

September 07, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

WASHINGTON COUNTY - If you want to track down what a Washington County Commissioners candidate is spending on the race, that's easy - just go to the Board of Elections and ask, right?

Not necessarily.

For now, some candidates file campaign finance reports locally while others file with the state.

Candidates who have a "continuing" campaign account must file with the state board, explained Washington County Elections Director Dorothy Kaetzel. That means they plan to keep the campaign open after this year's elections, she said. The rest file locally.

So voters who want to track how much is spent in a given race can't go to one place and get all that information?

No, she said.

But that's going to change, she added.

Kaetzel said that after this year all candidates will file their campaign finance reports electronically with the state Board of Elections, and those reports will be posted on the state's campaign finance Web site, currently maintained by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

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In the meantime, three Washington County Commissioners candidates - Democrats Donna L. Brightman, Paul L. Swartz and incumbent Republican William J. Wivell have continuing campaign accounts and have filed reports with the state board. Wivell also filed a report with the local board.

The rest have either filed with the local board or signed affidavits, also filed with the local board, that they would spend $1,000 or less.

If a candidate files such an affidavit but goes over $1,000, he or she must then file a finance report. Election officials said former Hagerstown Councilman J. Wallace McClure, now a Republican candidate for county commissioner, fell into that category, and filed the required paperwork when the last round of reports was due Sept. 1.

Though Kaetzel reported that her staff is "happy" this is the last election they'll have to deal with campaign finance reports, having them all on the state board's database is no guarantee against confusion.

Consider, for example, county commissioner candidate Nathan Alan Green, a Democrat who filed an affidavit with the county declaring he wouldn't spend more than $1,000.

There's a Nathan A. Green with a campaign account on the state's database listing receipts of nearly $17,000 - much of it from slate and political action committees, and none of it from Washington County.

"That's not me," Green said Wednesday. "I don't have that kind of money and I wouldn't ask for that kind of money," he said, chuckling.

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