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Clean Slate Baltimore PAC, which has been critical of Sheila Dixon, fined $55,000

The Clean Slate Baltimore PAC, which has published ads depicting former Mayor Sheila Dixon as the Grinch and a jailed criminal, was fined $55,000 Tuesday for what state officials say were violations of campaign finance laws.

The State Board of Elections wrote that the PAC, which supports state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh in Baltimore's mayoral race, has not been filing its finance reports within 48 hours of spending $10,000 during the campaign.

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Board officials cited three instances in March and April in which it says the PAC did not disclose its expenditures.

"If you do not seek relief from the late-filing penalty, please make your check payable to State Board of Elections in the amount of $55,454.18," Jared DeMarinis, director of the state's division of candidacy and campaign finance, wrote to Clean Slate.

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DeMarinis wrote that the PAC now has the choice of paying the fine or demonstrating "just cause why the penalty should be reduced or waived."

Walter Ludwig, the managing partner of Indigo Strategies, a Washington firm that works for the PAC, declined to comment.

Clean Slate filed a report last week showing it had received $354,000 in contributions, most of it from the Mid-Atlantic Laborers Political Education Fund, which is operated by a union that has endorsed Pugh.

The PAC also supports a slate of City Council candidates.

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Pugh has condemned the PAC's depictions of Dixon.

The Dixon campaign filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections last week accusing Clean Slate of not disclosing the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

The PAC reported spending $554,000 to support different candidates, including $223,000 on television ads to benefit Pugh. It had paid $53,000 to KOFA Public Affairs, a firm run by political consultants Steve Kearney, Damian O'Doherty, Jamie Fontaine-Gansell and Rick Abbruzzese.

Clean Slate Baltimore is one of four political action committees that have been active during the race for Baltimore mayor.

A group called Citizens for a Better Baltimore, bankrolled by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, has spent $292,000 to promote City Councilman Carl Stokes. The Mobilization Project PAC, funded by a carpenters labor union, has received $225,000 to support Dixon.

A PAC formed this week is backing lawyer Elizabeth Embry. It is operated by Howard County writer Les Cohen, who runs the Baltimore Rising nonprofit that has been critical of Dixon and businessman David L. Warnock, another leading candidate.

It has yet to disclose its donors or report making any expenses.

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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