Actress Jada Pinkett Smith (left) invited Baltimore mayoral candidate Sen. Catherine Pugh (right) to attend Palm Sunday services with her at the church her family attends, Macedonia Baptist Church in West Baltimore.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith (left) invited Baltimore mayoral candidate Sen. Catherine Pugh (right) to attend Palm Sunday services with her at the church her family attends, Macedonia Baptist Church in West Baltimore. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

More than $60,000 in campaign checks to state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh have bounced, her campaign reported Tuesday.

Pugh, one of the leading candidates for mayor of Baltimore, said that 11 checks of $6,000 each -- the most allowed by law -- couldn't be cashed due to a lack of funds in the bank accounts from the donors, according to her finance report.

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The checks have been under scrutiny in recent weeks. Most come from two small city blocks: $24,000 from donors with addresses in the 1000 block of Eastern Ave. in Little Italy and $18,000 from donors in the 6000 block of Falls Road in North Baltimore.

According to campaign finance reports and the Pugh campaign, several of the checks that bounced were written by companies connected to the Blatterman family, which owns Cafe Gia in Little Italy.

Opponents have accused Pugh of accepting donations from companies violating campaign finance laws. They say that some of the company names listed in campaign finance reports aren't registered with the state.

"She has apparently received thousands of dollars from dummy corporations that don't exist, from people who say they don't have thousands of dollars to give," mayoral candidate Elizabeth Embry said during a forum Tuesday, citing a City Paper article about the checks.

Pugh's campaign blamed typos and poor record-keeping on the part of the donors, saying the company names weren't listed correctly with her campaign and that's why they can't be found in state records. The checks bounced in January, but that information wasn't made public until Tuesday's campaign finance deadline.

Pugh said Wednesday she has more than 1,100 donations and the bounced checks represent less than 1 percent.

"All we do is collect the checks," she said. "We don't try to deal with folks who bounce checks."

Embry is only attacking her because she's trailing in the polls, Pugh argued.

"When you're at that small percentage, you're grasping for everything," Pugh said.

Blatterman has not responded to a request for comment.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

This blog post has been updated to add comments from Sen. Catherine E. Pugh and to clarify how the donations were characterized.

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