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Maryland House of Delegates passes sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform package

Maryland’s House of Delegates has passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation aimed at preventing corruption and helping the State Board of Elections investigate wrongdoing.

“Marylanders deserve to know their state legislators and public officials are working for their constituents, not themselves,” said House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, in a statement Thursday. “This legislative package seeks to restore public trust by making state public officials more accountable and transparent. We can and must do better.”

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The package of seven bills that advanced Wednesday aims to eliminate conflicts of interest by prohibiting former administration secretaries from lobbying their department for a year after leaving office, increasing criminal penalties for bribery, and prohibiting a candidate’s family members from serving as their campaign treasurer.

The legislation also seeks to increase oversight and accountability by adding two positions to the State Board of Elections to help audit, investigate and enforce campaign finance laws and requiring campaigns to produce bank statements if they are assessed a civil fine by the State Board of Elections. The House also is expected to advance legislation to expand the State Prosecutor’s ability to investigate misconduct in office.

“This is the most meaningful campaign finance reform package in the last 10 years,” said Del. Nick J. Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the election law subcommittee and was lead sponsor of four of the bills. "We are making sure regulators have the tools they need to conduct proper audits and investigations to root out bad actors who are abusing the system for personal gain.”

Several of the bills are meant to address weaknesses in state election laws made clear by recent corruption cases.

The package comes after former Democratic Prince George’s County Del. Tawanna Gaines was sentenced to six months in prison for misusing campaign funds for her personal benefit. As part of that case, Gaines’ daughter and former campaign treasurer, Anitra Edmond, was sentenced to probation on a related charge of wire fraud.

Last month, former Democratic Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy and tax evasion concerning the sale of her self-published “Healthy Holly” books. Among the allegations prosecutors made in that case was that Pugh used illegal straw donations to help her campaign.

The bills now advance to the Senate for consideration.

“We have taken common sense steps to better ensure public officials live up to their oaths of office and if they don’t, there will be consequences," said Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairwoman of the land use and ethics subcommittee.

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