In the wake of disclosures that her campaign made 133 amendments to her past campaign finance reports, Sheila Dixon’s staff and supporters are arguing that she is being unfairly singled out.
Dixon spokesperson Martha McKenna says that more than a thousand campaign finance amendments are filed yearly at the Maryland Board of Elections by candidates vying for city, county and state offices.
“The context here is that it is not uncommon to file amendments,” McKenna said in an interview.
“All the candidates make amendments. It’s a smear!” wrote a Dixon supporter on Facebook in response to The Brew’s story on the former mayor’s campaign finances.
DIXON WON’T RELEASE BANK STATEMENTS
Asked to respond to Common Cause Maryland’s conclusion that Dixon should release her campaign’s bank account statements to clear up the confusion over the write down of $200,000 in cash and other matters, the campaign today said it will not do so.
“Our position hasn’t changed. Everything that we’ve filed with the Board of Elections is accurate and was fixed 13 months ago,” said Martha McKenna. “What would they show? Any questions about what was spent when and for what are answered there.” –Fern Shen
McKenna singled out state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh – who polls show is Dixon’s chief rival in the upcoming Democratic primary for mayor – as a prime example of the common practice of multiple amendment filing by candidates for public office.
She additionally cited Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (who is not running for re-election) as another frequent practitioner.
“Pugh made a series of amendments in 2011 when she was running for mayor,” McKenna stated, “and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also filed a number of amendments in an election year. Actually, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had two different accounts, and she actually closed an account, which I don’t see very often.”
The Brew reviewed the campaign finance reports of all three politicians – both originals and amended – that were filed with the elections board between 2006 and 2016. (The reports can be found at this site by typing in the campaign committee name.)
We found the Pugh and Rawlings-Blake filings to make much less frequent use of amendments. And when amendments were filed, they did not change the cash balance except in a couple of instances involving a few dollars.
Specifically, we found the following:
• “Committee to Elect Catherine E. Pugh” submitted 28 original reports between 2007 and 2016 and filed 30 amendments.
• “Stephanie Rawlings-Blake For Baltimore” filed 22 original reports and 11 amendments. (Her account, “Friends Of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake,” filed 13 original and 13 amended reports before closing in 2007 with a $0.00 balance.)
• “Sheila Dixon For Baltimore” filed 28 original reports and 133 amendments.
Dixon had a 5:1 ratio of amended to original reports compared to 1:1 for Pugh and 0.7:1 for the combined Rawlings-Blake committees.
Changing the Cash Balances
In the case of Dixon, however, the significance of her amended reports is that they greatly lowered the cash balance her committee reported between 2010, when she was forced to resign as mayor, and 2015, when she announced she would run for her old job.
Specifically, we found:
• On January 20, 2010, Friends Of Sheila Dixon reported $318,616.41 in its account at Harbor Bank of Maryland.
That was shortly after Dixon had struck a deal with Maryland prosecutors to resign as mayor to avoid a second trial. Her first trial ended in a misdemeanor embezzlement conviction for stealing gift cards intended for needy families.
• Between January and March of last year, however, her campaign committee made 11 amendments to the original 2010 report. The changed reduced her campaign’s reported cash down to $134,223.63.
A Different Pattern
Did Pugh or Rawlings-Blake change their cash balances in their amended reports?
The Brew could find no changes in their committees’ bank accounts in the 10 years between 2007 and 2016.
Their amended reports instead involved other issues – in the case of Pugh, changes in reporting a loan received by businessman Scott Donahoo during Pugh’s unsuccessful run for mayor in 2011.
What’s more, the “cash balances” and the “bank account balances” reported in the original Dixon reports often vary by considerable amounts.
For instance, her January 12, 2011 statement gives $215,108.92 as the committee’s cash balance. But the same report says there is $93,000 more ($308,718.68) in its Harbor Bank account.
A year later, the campaign reported that both its cash and bank balances matched. But only to subsequently amend the report to say the amount was $185,000 less than originally reported.
Mosby and Stokes Filings
Two other candidates in the Democratic primary for mayor have a track record with campaign finance reports. They are Councilmen Nick Mosby and Carl Stokes.
“Friends of Nick Mosby” has been filing since 2007. In that period, the committee has filed 19 original statement and made two amendments to those statements, none of which altered his cash balance or cash in the bank.
“Citizens For Carl Stokes” has reported since 2006. The committee has on record 31 original reports and 9 amended reports.
As in the case of Pugh, Rawlings-Blake and Mosby, Stokes’ amended reports did not alter the amount of cash he reported on the original reports.
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