Common Cause Maryland has hired a former top official of a leading environmental group as its executive director, taking over as the General Assembly prepares for a debate over campaign finance law in which the government watchdog group will be a leading player.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, who has served as deputy director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland since 2008, fills a position that has been vacant since May, when former executive director Susan Wichmann resigned to become a full-time mother.
The appointment comes as the legislature is expected to consider a sweeping set of campaign finance reforms recommended by a commission set up to review the law governing the role of money in elections.
The panel, chaired by lawyer Bruce Marcus, urged lawmakers to close a gaping loophole in the state's election law that has allowed certain business owners to evade Maryland's limits on campaign donations by giving through multiple limited-liability corporations under their control. The commission also recommended new curbs on the use of slates to move money from one race to another, as well as more timely reporting of large donations and expenditures so they become public before Election Day.
As a trade-off the panel also recommended the first increase in Maryland's gift limits -- $4,000 to a single campaign and $10,000 to all campaigns during a four-year election cycle -- for the first time since 1991.
Bevan-Dangel expressed concern Monday about that change, which would take the aggregate donation limit to $25,000.
"Raising the campaign contribution limit raises the influence of private interests in politics. If this recommendation is pursued, it must be accompanied by policies that would close loopholes and protect our campaign finance laws from abuse," she said.