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Maryland's 2022 gubernatorial candidate fined $2,000 for document targeting Wes Moore – Capital Gazette

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Former Maryland gubernatorial candidate John King's campaign was fined $2,000 for violating state election law when he anonymously distributed a dossier targeting the current governor. Wes Moore in the 2022 Democratic primary, the Maryland state attorney general said Wednesday.

The document, sent to members of Maryland's powerful teachers union shortly before their approval, alleged that Moore had promoted misperceptions of his Baltimore upbringing in his 2010 book “The Other Wes Moore” and in public statements.

Moore, then a former nonprofit leader who was running for elected office for the first time, filed a formal complaint with state officials. He called the opposition's research “a document of lies” and dismissed allegations that he misled, including through a campaign-sponsored website, FactsMD.com.

Sending the document to the Maryland State Education Association also violated campaign finance law by failing to disclose who paid for the communication, his complaint says.

A two-year investigation confirmed those allegations, District Attorney Charlton T. Howard III said in a statement announcing the civil subpoena.

The investigation revealed that Joseph O'Hern, King's campaign manager, was behind the anonymous emails, using the account “[email protected]” and identifying himself only as “Honest Dem.”

Maryland law requires an agency to disclose where the communications came from if they are paid for by a campaign. O'Hern received more than $123,000 for his work on the campaign between May 2021 and August 2022, according to prosecutors' review of campaign finance records.

“Identifying the source of campaign materials is critical to the honesty and transparency in our electoral process, especially as advancing technology enables ever-broader reach of the electorate,” Howard said.

King, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under Democratic former President Barack Obama, came a distant sixth in the Democratic primary with 3.7% of the vote. Today he is chancellor of the State University of New York.

Moore won about a third of Democratic voters, allowing him to emerge from a crowded field of ten and win the general election. His campaign declined to comment Thursday.

O'Hern, who officials discovered was the source of the emails by securing subpoenas to identify IP addresses, did not respond to a request for comment.