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Politicsby Mark Reutter11:00 amMar 5, 20160

Strong ties to UM Medical System bring Pugh campaign cash

Catherine Pugh’s tenure on the board of directors at the University of Maryland Medical System yields a good return

Above: Sen. Catherine Pugh speaks at a candidate’s forum last month. (Fern Shen)

It proved to be a lucrative afternoon for state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, who was the guest of honor of insurance executive and former Annapolis powerhouse Francis X. Kelly and his wife Janet.

An October fundraiser at the Kellys’ Hunt Valley office netted over $75,000 in contributions, a nice boost for Pugh’s then-fledgling mayoral campaign.

A portion of the money came from the insurance industry. But more impressive was the strong showing by the University of Maryland Medical System Corp., parent of the downtown Baltimore medical campus.

The Brew has traced over $52,000 to persons who are identified with the medical complex. (Some of their contributions were made after the fundraiser.)

So what’s the connection between UMMS and Pugh?

Purse Strings in Annapolis

The campus is more than one of the thousands of constituents in her West Baltimore 40th District.

In her rise to prominence in the Maryland Senate, Pugh has carved out a specialty in health care. She sits on the Senate Finance Committee and chairs its health subcommittee, which reviews and approves tens of millions of dollars in state aid to UMMS.

That includes grants for its BioPark extension, which was picketed last week for allegedly ignoring its commitment to jobs and development at Poe Homes and other adjacent neighborhoods.

Pugh’s ties to UMMS run still deeper as a longtime member of its board of directors (since 2001, according to her official bio).

As such, she has forged close relationships with, among others, Kelly, who helped split the University of Maryland Hospital from the University of Maryland system (and form UMMS) as a state Senator from Baltimore County.

Kelly left the Senate in 1991. He has since built one of the region’s largest health-insurance brokerages, with 13,000 corporate clients, while simultaneously serving on the board of UMMS, which now owns and operates 11 hospitals and medical systems in Maryland in addition to UM Baltimore.

“Whoever Comes, Comes”

Pugh said that the mechanics of the Kelly fundraiser were similar to the ones that she’s done for years. “I send notices out to the entire list of people I know. Whoever comes, comes,” she said in a telephone interview with The Brew.

In this case, she said, there were “people from University of Maryland, people from insurance companies and just people who support me generally.”

Among the checks that rolled into her campaign coffers were $6,000 from the Kellys; $5,000 from UMMS board chairman Stephen A. Burch; $2,000 from UMMS president and CEO Robert A. Chrencik; $1,000 from executive vice president Henry J. Franey; $1,000 from senior vice president Stephen T. Bartlett; $1,000 from chief strategy officer Alison G. Brown; $1,000 from chief information officer Jon Burns; and $1,000 from senior development officer Janice Eisele.

Chief medical officer Walter H. Ettinger chipped in another $1,000 (which seemed to be the standard offering among UMMS officers). The same amount, for example, was given by vice president of  community health Donna L. Jacobs and vice president of external affairs Mark L. Wasserman, while chief of nursing Lisa C. Rowen added $1,250 to the pot.

Larger contributions came from Katherine Jennings ($2,500) and Nora J. Linstrom ($5,000), both of whom are identified in Pugh’s finance report as “UMMS – healthcare.”

Top Fundraiser

So far in the 2016 mayoral race, Pugh has been the most prolific gatherer of campaign cash.

In the first round of finance reports filed with the Maryland Board of Elections in January, Pugh stood out in the crowded Democratic field with $648,000 raised.

She was significantly ahead of Sheila Dixon ($424,000) as well as Elizabeth Embry ($416,000). Nick Mosby trailed at $321,000, and Carl Stokes raised $180,000.

Venture capitalist David Warnock picked up $360,000 from supporters, but also loaned $950,000 of his own money to his campaign.

Asked how she accounts for her fundraising performance, Pugh told The Brew, “I’m not 21 years old. I’ve been around a long time. I know a lot of people, and I have a long database.”
NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Pugh fundraiser took place at the Kellys’ home, not at their Kelly & Associates office.

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