Amid the displays of fruit, meatballs and shrimp at the fundraiser for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III at Newton White Mansion was a somewhat surprising guest: Mirza H. Baig.
The Laurel physician was a pivotal part of a nearly decade-long bribery scheme, and was caught on a federal videotape handing $15,000 to former county executive Jack B. Johnson on the day of his arrest in 2010. Baig cooperated with federal authorities after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion. He is scheduled to be sentenced in the spring; Johnson (D) was recently sentenced to seven years in prison.
“It was like nothing had ever happened,” said a Prince George’s official who attended the fundraiser, where donors could pay up to $2,000 to party with Baker (D). The official did not want to be identified because of the circumstances but said Baig “was talking to everybody and anybody.”
Baig paid $500 to attend the fundraiser Wednesday — “that was the minimum amount,” he said in an interview. He went to the fundraiser, he said, to try to pitch Baker on a plan for a free medical clinic in Prince George’s. He had tried a few times to get Baker on the telephone.
“He is a good person, Mr. Baker, and at the same time I wanted to talk to him about a couple of things,” Baig said. “I had left him a few messages, but he hadn’t returned my calls.”
“I want to try to open a free clinic for indigent patients in Prince George’s County,” he said. “It would be a good thing if it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Baig’s check was drawn on an account from Dawn Limited Partnership, Baig’s development firm. It was not a name immediately recognized by Baker’s new campaign treasurer, Aaron Copeland.
According to several people who attended, Baig circulated among the 50 or so guests at the fundraiser, trying with little success to chat up several elected officials. He eventually made his way to Jayson Williams, a Baker aide, to try to discuss the proposed clinic.
Williams said he didn’t realize immediately with whom he was speaking. When he was alerted by a colleague, he let Copeland know they needed to find Baig’s check and return it. The check had already been deposited in Baker’s campaign account.
On Friday, Copeland said he had located the donation by matching up the corporate name with Baig.
“As soon as we identified it, we cut a check and sent it back. It was probably the quickest check we ever cut,” Copeland said.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said the administration had no plans to work with Baig.
“The Baker administration is not interested in doing business with Dr. Baig,” he said.