ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A company co-owned by a prominent Democratic fundraiser who spent millions of his own money on a failed congressional bid has agreed to pay $60,000 to settle allegations of exceeding limits on campaign contributions for three statewide candidates in Maryland, officials said Friday.
Retail Services and Systems Inc. and its subsidiaries received 12 citations for making a total of $268,000 in contributions beyond what's allowed by state law, state prosecutors said. The recipients included the campaigns of then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who ran an unsuccessful bid for governor, his running mate Ken Ulman, and Comptroller Peter Franchot. The contributions were made in the 2010 and 2014 election cycle.
The company is co-owned by David Trone, and it does business as Total Wine & More, a chain that operates beer, wine and liquor stores nationally.
Trone spent about $13 million in his failed bid for the Democratic primary in Maryland's 8th Congressional District — more than any other candidate in a House race in U.S. history. He is a major Democratic fundraiser and has hosted President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton for fundraisers at his mansion in posh Potomac, Maryland, in the suburbs of the nation's capital.
"Contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars, given at the direction and under the control of a single entity, could result in the appearance of undue influence on the part of the contributors," Emmet Davitt, the state prosecutor, said in a statement. "In this case, the state does not have any evidence that the over-contributions were made knowing that the act was unlawful. This office will continue to vigorously pursue these types of violations."
Robert Shaffer, an RSSI attorney, said the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.
"To avoid the costs and distractions of prolonged litigation, several companies reached a civil settlement with the state of Maryland," Shaffer said in a statement.
RSSI also has agreed to a charitable contribution of $90,000 to the Maryland Fair Campaign Financing Fund.
Brown's campaign for governor received $124,000 in over-contributions, according to an affidavit in the case. Ulman's campaign received $82,000 in over-contributions, and Franchot's campaign received $62,000. All of the candidates, like Trone, are Democrats. Brown ended up losing his race for governor to Republican Larry Hogan, who prevailed by using public campaign financing.