Smipkin Pals, Seeking Cecil County Council Seat, Linked to PACs $ Sleaze Against Fellow Republicans
Two candidates for a vacant Cecil County Council seat, seeking endorsement from the Smipkin-controlled Republican Central Committee, are linked to Political Action Committee (PAC) financing of a smear campaign against fellow Republican Judge Keith Baynes, who resoundingly defeated Del. Michael Smigiel in the April primary for a court seat. But one of their PAC’s is still keeping secret the source of its money that it shifted to the other PAC—in violation of state election laws.
The key players in this little drama are Robert Gorman, a longtime political supporter of and campaign donor to Smigiel, and Lisa Conley, another Smigiel supporter. Both Gorman and Conley served as the named voices on robocalls attacking fellow Republicans Tari Moore and Robert Hodge in the April GOP primary. Those robocalls stated they were paid for by the campaign fund of state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36).
(Moore overwhelmingly won the crowded GOP primary and went on to win the November general election to become Cecil County’s first-ever County Executive. Hodge, a one-term County Commissioner, won his GOP primary race and went on to win the District 5 County Council seat in November.)
Gorman also created a new PAC that mounted an attack, complete with a scurrilous mailer and Facebook page, against Judge Baynes and supporting Smigiel’s failed race for a court seat. That effort was actually financed by another previously secret PAC linked to Conley, according to a Cecil Times review of state election campaign finance records. But Conley’s group has so far refused to obey state election laws to disclose the source of the money her group then transferred to Gorman’s PAC to finance its attacks.
Gorman and Conley were interviewed last week by the county’s GOP Central Committee, sources said, seeking to be put on a three-name list of endorsed candidates to fill the District 2 County Council seat vacated by Moore upon being sworn in as County Executive. (The Central Committee is controlled by acolytes of Smigiel and Pipkin, whose Smipkin alliance has sought to dominate local Cecil County government and politics for several years.)
But the county’s GOP Central Committee was actually removed from the legal process to fill the vacancy under rules of the new county Charter when Moore changed her party affiliation from Republican to “unafilliated” several days before being sworn into office as County Executive. If she had remained a Republican, the GOP committee could have determined the three-name list from which a replacement would have to be selected. But now the GOP committee’s recommendations are advisory only, although the committee’s continuation of its selection process is apparently designed to try to pressure the all-Republican County Council, and Moore, to pick one of their candidates to fill the vacancy.
Under the county’s new Charter, the County Council will now nominate candidates to fill the politically unaffiliated seat. But the political reality is that the panel will deadlock, 2-2, with Hodge and new Councilman Dr. Alan McCarthy (R-1) on one side and Smipkin followers Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3) on the other. (Both Broomell and Dunn are former employees of Smigiel in his legislative office.) Under that deadlock scenario, Moore will ultimately get to pick her Council replacement in January.
Smigiel and Pipkin, and various surrogates and employees, have loudly denounced Moore’s decision to temporarily “unaffiliate” and remove the Smipkins from control of deciding who will fill the Council seat. But many Cecil County Republicans and voters have voiced support for Moore’s decision in postings on Cecil Times’ website and Facebook page.
Meanwhile, state elections board records show that Gorman is the chairman of a PAC called “Protect Cecil’s Children” that was created 3/23/12, shortly before the April primary election. Listed as treasurer of the group is Walter Chicosky, of Elkton. They listed their agenda as “protecting children from sex offenders.”
In fact, that group’s sole effort was to produce a direct mail political attack on Baynes, and a Facebook page that has now deleted most of their most scurrilous attack comments. The Gorman-backed group falsely accused Judge Baynes of being ‘soft’ on child predators, in an apparent attempt to mount a pre-emptive attack to deflect attention from Smigiel’s record as a defense attorney for a major sex offender. The ex-wife of that offender posted a letter to the editor of Cecil Times commending the tough stance Baynes took as a prosecutor of that sex offender and criticizing Smigiel for defending the convicted sex offender in various court proceedings.
State election records, filed 10/25/12, show that Gorman personally donated $ 350 and his PAC received a transfer of funds, in the amount of $3,450, from a Conley-related group, Republicans of Cecil County PAC. Gorman’s PAC spent $3,750 on a direct mail flyer attacking Baynes, state records show. But the reports also show that the Conley-backed PAC did not donate its money until 6/25/12, long after the primary was over.
Conley’s “Republicans of Cecil County” PAC—with a very similar name to a previous Smipkin PAC known as ROC-PAC or ‘Republicans of Cecil’ that financed Smipkin-backed candidates in the 2010 election—was created 4/5/12, right after the primary election, and listed Meagan Kay Schwartz, of Elkton, as chairman and Lisa Conley as Treasurer. Schwartz and Conley both listed the same Elkton address as their residence on the state report. [UPDATE: Schwartz was listed as the campaign treasurer for Cecil County Councilman Michael Dunn (R-3) on his most recent filing earlier this year with the state elections board.]
The Conley-related PAC has been cited by the state elections board for violating state campaign finance reporting law by failing to file two required financial reports: a pre-general election report due 10/26/12 and a post-general election report due 11/27/12. State election records list a total of $340 in fines for the violations and there could be additional fines for the failure to file the November report if it remains unfiled.
So for now, citizens are kept in the dark about who actually financed Conley’s PAC that then financed Gorman’s PAC that paid for a sleaze attack on Judge Baynes.
And now both Gorman and Conley think they are qualified to lead Cecil County into the future in a key leadership position on the County Council? Will the Smipkin-controlled Central Committee agree and put their names on the panel’s proposed nomination list?
(Perhaps that is all the more–or MOORE?– reason to appreciate the changed political landscape that could be in the offing after the GOP Central Committee was removed from the legally-binding equation to select the new Council member.)