The Democratic gubernatorial primary took a public turn for the worse on Tuesday, when author and former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore filed a complaint with two state investigative agencies, accusing ” an unidentified party to “anonymously disseminate” false and derogatory information about Wes Moore via email and social media in an orchestrated attempt to disparage Mr. Moore and damage his candidacy.
The complaint suggested that another contender for the Democratic nomination, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., “may be responsible for this smear campaign” – a charge the King campaign denies.
Moore and King are among 10 candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in the July 19 primary.
For weeks, an investigative dossier into Moore’s background has been circulated anonymously via email to Democratic activists, members of the media, labor leaders and others, accusing Moore of fabricating parts of his personal story from the boots, which he has described in books, interviews, social media posts and on the campaign trail.
The information was provided from the email address [email protected] Maryland Matters emailed the address two weeks ago seeking the identity of the sender. There was no response.
In a complaint filed Tuesday with the Maryland State Board of Elections and the state’s attorney’s office, Amanda S. La Forge, Wes Moore’s attorney for Maryland, alleges that the individual or individuals disseminating the research from the opposition on Moore violated campaign finance law because they used emails and Twitter to convey campaign “misinformation” without a proper “authority” line that is required on official campaign materials and social media accounts.
The Moore campaign tracked emails and tweets associated with Honest Dems over a period of months. A March 24 communication from the shadowy organization to delegates at last weekend’s Maryland State Education Association convention serves as an example of the message the group has promulgated about Moore.
The group sought to dissuade the teachers’ union from endorsing Moore, questioning elements of his personal story, saying he supported school voucher schemes and was ‘seeking to get rich’ by selling his autobiography , “The Other Wes Moore”, to audiences in Maryland. schools.
“I hope you will seriously consider the implications of all of this and how Republicans will use it to win another general election here in Maryland, since that’s where this research came from,” the missive told delegates. teachers’ union.
Moore ended up winning the endorsement of the influential teachers’ union with 85% of the vote.
La Forge, a Democratic election attorney who has held various positions in Maryland state government, wrote to state investigative agencies that communications such as these “were sent in knowing violation and deliberation of Maryland’s campaign finance law”.
“The sender went to great lengths to conceal the true source of the email communication by stripping identifying metadata from attachments and deliberately omitting required lines of authority,” she said. declared.
La Forge’s letter goes on to allege that the King campaign is responsible for disseminating information about Moore and asks the Board of Elections and the prosecutor to “take immediate action to investigate and sanction this unlawful behavior and ensure full compliance with the law.” law. ”
The Moore campaign bases its allegations on a public information request from the Baltimore City Board of Elections, which found that a researcher employed by the King campaign last year requested documents about Moore’s voting history. Some of this research was later featured in the Honest Dems’ filing on Moore.
La Forge’s complaint cites the 2012 criminal conviction of Julius Henson, a notorious political strategist who was found guilty of orchestrating a deceptive robocall on Election Day in 2010 and failing to include a line of authority in appeal, as a precedent to investigate and pursue criminal charges against the author. from the Honest Dems Twitter and messaging account, which has now been deleted.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the King campaign denied that the campaign is responsible for Honest Dems communications.
“The King-Siri Campaign did not authorize the release of the document at the center of this complaint by the Moore Campaign, nor does the King-Siri Campaign know who is behind it,” the statement read. “The material alleged in the documents raises serious questions about many of Moore’s statements and we hope that Mr. Moore answers them and that the people of Maryland give serious consideration and proper consideration to all candidates in this race, because it is essential that Les Democrats have a candidate who can win in November. »
In its public complaint filed with the state Elections Commission and the state’s attorney, the Moore campaign encloses some of the opposition research that has been circulating on the candidate. It includes allegations that Moore, who by his own admission split his time between Maryland and New York growing up, overstated his ties to Baltimore and did not live there full-time until that he is a student at Johns Hopkins University. Using voting and Motor Vehicle Administration records, the record suggests that Moore for years used his mother’s home in Pasadena to vote and obtain a driver’s license.
The anti-Moore dossier claims the contestant, whose father died when he was 3, promoted a false narrative on his biography and used it to write a bestselling book, raise fundraising venture capital for various projects and landed a job as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation in New York. The Honest Dems filing also claims that Moore exaggerated her childhood economic circumstances, suggesting that her mother, rather than struggling financially after her husband’s death, “was a television producer, writer, journalist and public relations professional in success that could afford to send several children to private school.
The Honest Dems dossier cites Moore’s best-selling book, “The Other Wes Moore,” television and print interviews and other sources at length in an attempt to point out what it describes as numerous contradictions in the contestant’s autobiographical account.
The Moore campaign launched a website, factsmd.com, on Tuesday that seeks to refute the anonymous accusations and offers a timeline on “Moore’s childhood and connection to Baltimore.” It also includes video interviews and excerpts from Moore’s book.
“I didn’t go into this naively, I understand politics can be toxic,” Moore said in a statement. “But to attack my childhood, my connection to my home – to say that my mother, an immigrant who watched her husband die, didn’t really struggle – is so callous and repugnant. And doing it illegally and anonymously is not something we’re going to tolerate.
It is unusual, but not unheard of, for candidates to disclose unflattering information about themselves. This is often a sign of a campaign trying to get ahead of an investigative story that is about to land in a media outlet. Given the existence of opposition research on Moore that has been circulating for weeks, it would not be surprising if such a piece were in the works. Unlike other leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Moore does not have a long history of government service, prompting a closer examination of his personal history.
Moore’s strategists say that by filing a complaint with two state agencies — and releasing some of the information used against the candidate — the campaign shows how willing it is to retaliate when unsubstantiated rumors are introduced into the political blood. They argued that the rules of engagement are often different for high profile black candidates and that the campaign has no intention of sitting back and letting nameless, disreputable actors define Moore.
Coincidentally, King served on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation throughout Moore’s tenure as CEO – and remains on the board to this day.