Common Cause Walks Back Its Criticisms Of Pugh

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When Sheila Dixon sent out her most recent attack ads against Catherine Pugh, a prominent part of those attacks were comments by Common Cause Maryland about Pugh’s contributions. Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, was quoted in a Baltimore City Paper article from February:

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, the executive director of the political watchdog Common Cause Maryland, says the pattern in Pugh’s campaign finance records is shocking.

“We have enough of a problem with legal LLCs donating money to campaigns,” she says. “This crosses the line into clearly-illegal territory where you’re creating fraudulent companies to funnel money into campaigns.”

Given the nature of the recent exchanges between Pugh and Dizon, it should come as no surprise that Bevan-Dangel’s comments ended up in a Dixon campaign flier.

And now Common Cause is walking back those comments, on the grounds that (1) they never authorized Dixon to use their comments, and (2) any impropriety was not on the part of the Pugh campaign, unless the campaign was involved in helping contributors set up fake companies. Which is not true.

Government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland on Thursday said Sheila Dixon’s mayoral campaign has taken quotes attributed to its director “out of context” in a negative mailer about Dixon’s main rival, Catherine E. Pugh.

Over the weekend, the Dixon campaign began sending mailers to potential voters that includes a quote from Common Cause Maryland director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel. Citing a City Paper investigation titled “Little Italy political fundraiser funnels money to Pugh,” the mailer quotes Bevan-Dangel as saying the Pugh campaign has “crossed the line into clearly-illegal territory.”
But a statement released Thursday by Common Cause says Bevan-Dangel’s criticism was meant for donors to the Pugh campaign — not the campaign itself.
“If it is the case, as was reported, that donations are being made under false names and using false addresses, the actions of the donors behind those contributions are clearly illegal,” the statement said. “However, Common Cause is not aware of any evidence that would indicate that the Pugh campaign was aware of or complicit in those violations. Our commentary was on the reporting of political donors who were attempting to skirt campaign finance laws – not on Sen. Pugh and her mayoral campaign.”

Probably could have been made more clear back in February, but legally, what Common Cause is saying here is right. Absent proof that a campaign colluded with donors to obtain illegal donations, the problem with donations like those alleged here is with the donors, not the recipients.

Charm City ain’t behaving very charmily right now.

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