Accusations Fly In Baltimore

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Elizabeth Embry, a Baltimore mayoral candidate, has accused rival candidate Senator Catherine Pugh of ethical transgressions for taking campaign contributions from lobbyists who have business before Pugh’s committee in Annapolis.

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh has repeatedly solicited campaign contributions from lobbyists who are working on bills before her Senate committee, a rival candidate for Baltimore mayor said Wednesday.

Lawyer Elizabeth Embry’s campaign released a 19-page analysis of contributions from lobbyists to Pugh’s campaign. Embry says Pugh has collected $13,600 from lobbyists and organizations testifying on bills before the Senate Finance Committee, on which Pugh sits.
Such donations are permitted for candidates running for local office but illegal for those seeking state office.

If the donations are legal, what’s the story then?

“This is clearly exploiting a loophole,” said Embry, a high-ranking lawyer in the state attorney general’s office. “It’s clearly against the spirit of the law.”
Pugh has defended the contributions as legal. Her spokesman dismissed Embry’s criticism over the donations as “negative campaigning.”
“The race for mayor has come down to two candidates and one of them is not Elizabeth Embry,” Pugh spokesman Anthony McCarthy said. “Senator Pugh will not be distracted by negative campaigning and is focused on moving Baltimore forward and discussing the issues that impact the people of this city.”

Point of lawyer privilege here. The law doesn’t just “permit” what Pugh is doing – it explicitly authorizes it. Section 13-235 of the Election Law article states that statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly may not engage in certain fundraising activities during a regular legislative session. Subsection (c), however, contains a blanket exception.

(c) An official described in subsection (a) of this section, or a person acting on behalf of the official, is not subject to this section when engaged in activities solely related to the official’s election to an elective federal or local office for which the official is a filed candidate.

That’s not a “loophole,” counselor, that’s an explicit provision of law that allows what Pugh is doing. She’s raising money running for mayor, and she’s a filed candidate. What she’s doing is legal. Case closed. If the argument is that the law should be changed, find, but it’s hardly improper for a candidate to comply with the law as it exists, not as she wishes it to be. Embry should know better.

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