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Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh returns $860K to campaign donors

Catherine Pugh, the former mayor of Baltimore, speaks to reporters in February outside Baltimore's federal courthouse after being given a three-year sentence on charges related to the sales of her self-published "Healthy Holly" children's books. She's now returning about $860,000 in campaign contributions.
Catherine Pugh, the former mayor of Baltimore, speaks to reporters in February outside Baltimore's federal courthouse after being given a three-year sentence on charges related to the sales of her self-published "Healthy Holly" children's books. She's now returning about $860,000 in campaign contributions. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Catherine Pugh, the disgraced former mayor of Baltimore, is giving back more than $800,000 to donors to her political campaign.

Pugh’s campaign committee sent out checks last week totaling approximately $860,000 to 1,067 donors, according to R. Christopher Rosenthal, her campaign treasurer.

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The money was distributed on a proportional basis to donors. After outstanding bills are paid, the campaign committee will be dissolved this year, Rosenthal said Wednesday.

Pugh resigned from office and pleaded guilty to federal charges after The Baltimore Sun exposed a scheme in which she pressed local businesses and organizations — some with contracts with the city — to buy her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

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She sold 100,000 books for $500,000 to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she sat on the board of directors.

Pugh also is expected to plead guilty June 19 in state court to a misdemeanor charge of perjury, before heading to federal prison in Alabama later this month. Prosecutors charged Pugh with perjury for leaving off her “Healthy Holly” income from financial disclosure forms she filed when she was a state senator.

After Pugh resigned last spring, many donors asked for their money back. By the start of 2020, Pugh still had $915,677.04 in her campaign’s bank account.

From February through April of this year, the Pugh campaign paid nearly $6,000 in legal fees, according to state records. The campaign paid $3,056.29 to the Baltimore law firm Zuckerman Spaeder and $2,925 to Aton Strategies in Annapolis for legal work.

Aton is providing “accounting and compliance services” relating to the closure of the campaign committee, according to Rosenthal, who is a partner at Aton and became Pugh’s treasurer in January.

Zuckerman Spaeder is providing ongoing “legal counsel” to the campaign committee, he said.

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