The Dixon campaign has begun sending mailers criticizing state Sen. Catherine Pugh's campaign donations

Government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland on Thursday said Sheila Dixon's mayoral campaign has taken quotes attributed to its director "out of context" in a negative mailer about Dixon's main rival, Catherine E. Pugh.

Over the weekend, the Dixon campaign began sending mailers to potential voters that include a quote from Common Cause Maryland director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel. Citing a City Paper investigation titled "Little Italy political fundraiser funnels money to Pugh," the mailer quotes Bevan-Dangel as saying the Pugh campaign has "crossed the line into clearly-illegal territory."

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But a statement released Thursday by Common Cause says Bevan-Dangel's criticism was meant for donors to the Pugh campaign -- not the campaign itself.

"If it is the case, as was reported, that donations are being made under false names and using false addresses, the actions of the donors behind those contributions are clearly illegal," the statement said. "However, Common Cause is not aware of any evidence that would indicate that the Pugh campaign was aware of or complicit in those violations. Our commentary was on the reporting of political donors who were attempting to skirt campaign finance laws – not on Sen. Pugh and her mayoral campaign."

Martha McKenna, a spokeswoman for Dixon, said the Pugh campaign should answer questions from the public.

"The ethical questions swirling around Sen. Pugh's campaign, including who knew about the tens of thousands [from] phony corporations donating to her campaign, have gone unanswered," McKenna said.

In the past week, supporters of Pugh, a state senator, and Dixon, the former mayor, have engaged in a war of negative campaign fliers.

A political action committee backing Pugh is circulating a flier that includes a photo of Dixon doctored to look like a police mug shot, while the Dixon campaign is sending mailers accusing Pugh of accepting "illegal money" as she runs for office.

Pugh has condemned the political action committee, and publicly called for them to stop using her name and image in advertising.

Pugh and Dixon are leading the crowded Democratic primary race to become the next mayor of Baltimore. Incumbent Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is not seeking re-election.

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