The war of words between Chris Van Hollen and Kathy Szeliga heated up big time this week after Van Hollen called out Szeliga for having a fundraiser hosted by David Bossie, the head of the Citizens United super PAC that has become the symbol of campaign finance reform nationally.
Van Hollen’s press release from Thursday:
Tonight Delegate Kathy Szeliga, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is hosting a fundraiser with special guest Dave Bossie, President of Citizens United. Bossie was behind the Supreme Court case that opened the floodgates to secret outside money in elections and has led to an exponential growth in Super PACs.
This special interest fundraiser with Republican officials isn’t Citizens United first involvement in the Maryland Senate Race. They’ve already spent $35,000 on behalf of Delegate Szeliga in this election.
Campaign spokeswoman Bridgett Frey said, “Citizens United has been the driving force behind the deluge of secret outside money that is choking our democracy. Now they are coming into Maryland to get Delegate Szeliga to do their bidding. Rather than embrace the architects of secret money in politics, Delegate Szeliga should publicly embrace the DISCLOSE Act and join Chris Van Hollen in calling for transparency, accountability, and an end to dark money in politics. Voters want a leader who will put working families first, not politicians who promote big money secret outside special interests at the expense of Maryland families.”
Szeliga fired back, not particularly effectively however.
Szeliga’s campaign responded by arguing that Van Hollen is being hypocritical. A spokeswoman noted that Van Hollen has taken heavily from lobbyists and lawyers over the course of his career, and she pointed to a $2,500 fine his House campaign committee paid to the Federal Election Commission in 2003 after it received donations that exceeded federal limits.
“For a career politician whose overwhelming source of campaign funds are lobbyists and lawyers, Congressman Van Hollen has set a new standard for D.C. hypocrisy,” Szeliga spokeswoman Leslie Shedd said in a statement. “During his primary, a national PAC announced it would spend almost $1 million on television ads for him. And Congressman Van Hollen has been fined by the FEC for his connections to a PAC that improperly accepted donations. That’s a remarkable record of hypocrisy.“
As I’ve said for months, there’s a big difference between “money in politics” and “dark money.” Citizens United stands for dark money spending with no disclosure or accountability. There’s a big difference between money that can be accounted for on the one hand and dark money that nobody even knows about. There’s a reason why Van Hollen’s campaign finance bill is called the “DISCLOSE Act.”
Advantage Van Hollen. Decidedly so.