WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury has indicted two Baltimore-area companies on charges that they illegally funneled a total of $21,000 in donations to Rep. Elijah Cummings’ campaign through employees and family members.
Prosecutors said Cummings, D-Baltimore, has not been charged with any wrongdoing and he said Wednesday that neither he nor anyone in his campaign was aware of the alleged scheme.
P&J Contracting Company Inc. of Baltimore and Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., were charged in separate indictments with causing Cummings’ campaign to make false financial reports to the Federal Elections Commission.
U.S. Attorney Lynne Battaglia said the two firms convinced family members and employees to make contributions to the Cummings campaign, and later reimbursed them with company funds.
P&J Contracting is charged with making $17,000 in illegal contributions, while CDI is charged with channeling $4,000 to the campaign.
An attorney for CDI denied the charges. An attorney for P&J said he had not seen the indictment and refused to comment on the case Wednesday.
The indictment against P&J was returned in December and unsealed Wednesday. Battaglia said the 15-count indictment charged company owner Pless B. Jones Sr. with orchestrating the donations to Cummings’ campaign from January 1996 to November 1998.
Jones faces up to 75 years in prison and a fine of $3.75 million if convicted on all 15 counts.
Battaglia said the indictment against CDI, returned Wednesday, charged the company with making the falsely reported contributions between March and May 1996. CDI President J. Mark Loizeaux and Vice President Douglas K. Loizeaux each face four counts that they convinced employees and a family member to write personal checks to the Cummings campaign, to be reimbursed by the company later.
The Loizeauxes each face 20 years in jail and $1 million in fines on the charges.
An attorney for CDI says his clients was never involved. “It’s certainly not true,” said William Marlow.
“I can’t guess why the U.S. Attorney’s Office is even pursuing this,” he said. “[CDI] has donated thousands upon thousand of hours to the [U.S.] government, and other foreign governments, for disaster relief, without charge.”
Cummings said that neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office questioned or subpoenaed him or his staff in the investigation.
“It is a surprise to us,” he said of the charges.
He said no one in his campaign did anything wrong.
“The treasurer can only report the information on the checks that he receives,” Cummings said. “We have done our part” in reporting accurate data to the FEC, he said.
FEC spokesman Ian Stirton said a company must establish a political action committee in order to give donations to candidates for federal office. Neither P&J nor CDI had registered PACs with the FEC for the 1996-1998 election cycles, he said.
Also, “corporations cannot reimburse individuals for giving contributions to campaigns,” he said.
Battaglia’s office said a trial date has not been set.