Campaign contributions from the bail industry to Maryland legislators have increased as officials have debated reforms to the process that determines whether people are held in jail or released after an arrest, says Common Cause Maryland, the Associated Press reports. The industry has given $288,550 from 2011 to the present, the watchdog group found. In the last election cycle, from 2011 to 2014, the industry gave $153,300. Donations in the current election cycle are on pace to largely surpass that, because $135,250 has been given in the first two years of the current cycle.
Special interests use campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures to build relationships, to ensure legislators know their perspectives on policy reforms, and to be heard in the legislative process. “However, when entities are able to exert significantly more influence than the general public, or the people that their industry impacts, it creates an inequality in our democracy,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel of Common Cause Maryland. Maryland lawmakers have debated bail reform issues for years. This month, Attorney General Brian Frosh asked the state’s highest court to consider changing a rule to make sure people who are not a safety risk are not kept in jail just because they are poor.