By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Prince George’s County Democratic State Representative Tawanna Gaines, who has served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2001, resigned Oct. 4 after she was formally indicted on wire fraud charges.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to submit my immediate resignation to the Maryland House of Delegates as of Oct. 4th, 2019,” Gaines wrote.
According to the indictment, the Maryland U.S. District Attorney’s office alleges Gaines used a PayPal account that was associated with her campaign to defraud donors of more than $22,000 from at least January 2015 through April 2018. The money was raised through the “Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines” Committee and is believed to have been designated for her officially regulated re-election campaign account.
Gaines, who has represented District 22 since 2001, was the Vice Chair of the State House Appropriations Committee. Since 2002 it is believed that she maintained control over the digital finance account that was used to accept electronic donations that weren’t disclosed in her state campaign finance reports.
“On [Oct. 4], I accepted the resignation of Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines. Delegate Gaines has been a dedicated member of the Maryland House of Delegates for sixteen years,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones said in her statement. “As elected officials, we have an obligation to uphold the public trust, both in office and in our campaigns. We cannot sacrifice that trust for personal gain for ourselves or our family members.”
“I wish Delegate Gaines the best during this challenging time,” Jones added.
Gaines had previously been one of the most influential representatives in the Maryland General Assembly. This year alone she had been forefront of co-sponsoring several pieces of significant legislation.
The Prescription Drug Affordability Board now protects state residents and certain stakeholders from the high costs of prescription drug products by requiring the Board to collect data and identify prescription drug products- an effort she helped push forward.
She was also one of the co-sponsors of establishing the National Capital Strategic Economic Development Program. It provides strategic investment in local housing and businesses to encourage sustainable communities and to focus on areas where modest investment will impact on major neighborhood revitalization efforts. The program also established the type of project eligible to receive funds while authorizing certain government agencies, including housing authorities, and certain community development organizations who can apply to receive funds from the program.
In May, Gaines also co-sponsored a bill that altered the fees that are due for failure to file a campaign finance report, an affidavit, or an amended campaign finance report. The legislation increased the maximum fee payable for a campaign finance report, an affidavit, or an amended campaign finance report from $500 to $1,000. It doesn’t allow a candidate to be issued a certificate of nomination if, on or before the deadline for declining the nomination, the candidate has not filed a certain campaign finance document or pay a late filing fee.
If convicted on the wire fraud charges, Gaines faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.