A measure banning a family member from serving as a legislative candidate’s campaign treasurer will be introduced in Maryland, the state’s House speaker said Jan. 2, after a former lawmaker and her daughter pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud for improper use of campaign funds last year.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore) discussed plans for the measure during an interview with The Associated Press.
“A bill will be introduced in which no longer your treasurer can be a family member,” Jones said.
The bill comes after a former state legislator pleaded guilty in October to federal wire fraud for taking more than $22,000 in campaign money for personal use. Tawanna Gaines, a Prince George’s County Democrat, was sentenced in federal court Friday.
Gaines, who faced a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, was given six months incarceration followed by two months of home detention. Federal authorities said sentencing guidelines for Gaines’ case called for eight to 33 months in prison.
The money was spent on expenses including dental work, hair styling, fast food and an Amazon Prime membership.
A plea agreement with prosecutors calls for Gaines to pay back at least $22,565.
Gaines had served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2001 and was vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. She resigned less than a week before she was charged in October.
Gaines’ daughter, Anitra Edmond, was her campaign treasurer. Edmond has pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Authorities say she funneled more than $35,000 from her mother’s campaign to pay for hair appointments, fast food, rent on unrelated business and personal phone bills.
Since 2005, Edmond had been treasurer of “Friends of Tawanna Gaines.”
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said at a Jan. 7 news conference that he wants the legislature to go further and consider his Ethics and Accountability In Government Act of 2020 which will include increased penalties for bribery — both for officials and people who pay or solicit bribes. Hogan also said the proposed legislation would force lawmakers to forfeit their pensions, expand prohibitions of misuse of confidential information by public officials and empower the State Ethics Commission to directly assess penalties against public officials — authority the commission currently has for lobbyists.
“It’s been happening for a long time, but I really can’t explain why it continues to happen, but we’re going to try to do everything that we can to try to tighten up the rules so it can’t continue to happen,” Hogan said.
Gaines’ sentencing marked the latest legal trouble for former or current state legislators in Maryland.
Two weeks ago, federal authorities unsealed charges against former Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat, for allegedly taking more than $33,000 in bribes in exchange for various legislative actions, including voting to increase the number of medical marijuana grower and processing licenses available to an out-of-state company.
Also last year, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who served as a state senator before becoming mayor, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges involving sales of her self-published children’s books.
In 2018, former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a Baltimore Democrat, pleaded guilty to two federal counts of fraud for accepting $15,300 in bribes.
In 2017, federal prosecutors announced a former delegate, William Campos, had pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in a public corruption case involving the liquor industry in Prince George’s County. The next day, hours before the legislative session started, another Prince George’s County Democrat, Del. Michael Vaughn, abruptly announced his resignation. Vaughn was indicted in the same federal case as Campos.