A grand jury has charged a former legislative and campaign aide to Mayor Catherine Pugh with illegally arranging for relatives to donate thousands to Pugh's mayoral campaign.
Gary Brown, Jr. faces prison if convicted. The Sun broke the story earlier today.
Court records indicate the case was filed on Friday, Jan. 6. Brown faces five counts of contributing to a political campaign under a different name, and one count of making excessive contributions.
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced the charges in a press release today. The charges allege Brown deposited cash into the bank accounts of his mother, step father, and brother and then immediately contributed that money in the names of his mother, stepfather, and brother to the Pugh campaign. The contributions totaled $18,000.00—three times the maximum allowed contribution of $6,000.
"Election laws are in place to maintain the integrity of the electoral process and foster transparency in the regulation of campaign contributions," Davitt said in the press release. "Illegal straw contributions in names other than one's own to evade such laws cannot be tolerated."
In a statement, Pugh said: "I am saddened by the allegations, and just learned about the charges along with the public. Still, Mr. Brown is presumed innocent white the investigations continue. It would be inappropriate to provide any further comments."
Brown was set to be sworn-in as a state delegate on Tuesday to replace Del. Barbara Robinson (D-40th) who was tapped to replace Pugh in the state senate. The ceremony has been canceled, The Sun reported.
The investigation into Pugh's campaign finances were under investigation in March after complaints of straw contributions from bogus corporations, none of which appear to be related to the contributions at issue in this indictment. As City Paper reported, some $66,000 in maximum contributions arrived from donors whose names were spelled wrong, or corporations that did not appear to exist. The physical addresses of these donors traced back to Gia Blatterman and her family, who have played political hardball in the past.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangle of Common-Cause Maryland, a political watchdog, said back then that those suspicious contributions should be investigated. "Unfortunately the state prosecutor doesn't often get involved with this," she said, "but this is an example where we would hope they would take it seriously and investigate."
All 11 of those questionable campaign checks bounced, according to the campaign, which declined to make copies of the cancelled checks public. None of the players in that case has been indicted; there has been no public indication that those specific contributions are under scrutiny. But there wouldn't be: Grand jury proceedings are secret.