Former Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh pleaded guilty in November to fraud and tax-evasion conspiracies to illegally hide profits from sales of her children’s books. Former state delegate Tawanna P. Gaines pleaded guilty in October to federal wire fraud charges, admitting she used $22,000 in campaign donations to purchase fast food, get her hair styled and purchase a pool cover, among other things.
Most recently, charges were unsealed in December against former state delegate Cheryl D. Glenn, who built her reputation fighting to legalize medical marijuana. She was charged with bribery and wire fraud for allegedly taking nearly $34,000 in bribes to push legislation that benefited marijuana companies and other businesses.
But the actions of those individuals do not define the party or the “inspiring, hard-working legislators in the General Assembly,” said state Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City).
McCray, vice chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, said that when he thinks about Democrats, he thinks about House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), new leaders he described as “above reproach.”
“I think of people like Will Smith, who has a young family and just returned from serving his country,” McCray said, referring to the Montgomery County state senator who deployed to Afghanistan in 2019.
“This year we’ve witnessed instances of corruption from the White House to the State House,” Maryland Democratic Party chair Yvette Lewis said in a statement. “The Maryland Democratic Party demands ethical conduct of all of its members, and it is our expectation that all individuals in a position of public trust — no matter their party — serve in the interest of their constituents.”
In deep-blue Maryland, where Republicans lag in voter registration by a margin of more than 2-to-1, Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate.
The fundraising email sent by the Maryland GOP on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, asked for donations of $10 or $25 to help build a “war chest now so we can hit the ground running in 2020.”
“Our New Years Resolution is to hold ALL MARYLAND DEMOCRATS ACCOUNTABLE!” the email reads. “There has been a long list of corrupt Democrats breaking laws and pleading guilty — almost like they’re making their own dirty dozen!”
Corine Frank, executive director of the Maryland GOP, did not respond to requests for comment.
Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) said the betrayal of public trust that has been committed is serious — and that trying to use it as a fundraising tool undermines the seriousness of the situation.
“This so much more important than ‘Hey give me some money,’ ” Davis said. “These types of things cause a crisis in government, and when you fundraise of off them then you belittle the issues.”