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Group seeking vote on immigrant tuition law releases financial records

August 07, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

The group that successfully petitioned for a state referendum on tuition breaks for illegal immigrants spent about $9,500 on its effort, according to finance reports.

The group — known as MdPetitions.com, which is the URL for its website — took in about $16,200 and ended up with a surplus of about $11,600.

Under state law, the group was required to file the campaign finance reports — one for each round of signatures it submitted.

A new law in Maryland, granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants, was scheduled to go into effect July 1. However, the successful petition drive put the law on hold until voters decide on the issue in the 2012 general election.

The Maryland State Board of Elections has ruled that 108,923 signatures were valid, nearly twice what the group was required to submit by the end of June.

Another 23,148 signatures were rejected.

Immigrant advocacy group Casa de Maryland, some students and some teachers have sued to overturn the petition-drive effort, challenging many of the signatures and the propriety of a website used to gather signatures.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, led the petition drive, with help from Del. Patrick L. McDonough, R-Baltimore/Harford, and others.

The first petition finance report shows that Parrott spent $1,995 on “Internet design.” Other lines list hundreds of dollars in expenses connected to the website.

Parrott said in April, when he and McDonough announced the petition drive, that he put up $2,500 of his own money for upfront expenses, such as the website.

He said he expected to recover that seed money through donations.

A notice posted at MdPetitions.com urged supporters to donate $50,000 by the end of May to help with printing, the website and legal costs.

The group filed its first finance report in early June, shortly after the May 31 deadline for submitting at least one-third of the required number of valid signatures.

That first finance report lists $3,847 in receipts and $4,842 in debts, including the website expenses and $882 for shirts.
The group filed its second finance report after the June 30 final deadline for petition signatures.

The second report lists $12,347 in receipts and $4,551 in disbursements.

Overall, including both finance reports, about 300 contributions to the cause are listed — most of them from $10 to $50.

Mostly, they came from people across Maryland. A small percentage came from out of state — Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The largest donation during the petition drive was $1,875 from We the People of Maryland Inc. of Frederick, Md.

Among individuals, Deborah Emerick of Lutherville, Md., contributed the most — $500.

Next were M. Miller of Bethesda, Md., and Del. Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick, who donated $300 apiece.

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