A Baltimore City Councilwoman is asking the U.S. Attorney to investigate and possibly prosecute the man who defeated her in last week's Democratic primary.
Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, District 7, sent a letter asking U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein to prosecute Nick Mosby, under a law that prohibits the use of federal logos in private communications. Mosby’s campaign allegedly sent out a mailer using the IRS logo which accused Conaway of trying to avoid paying taxes.
Conaway, a Democrat, became embroiled in a scandal earlier this year when posted documents showing she and her husband claimed a state Homestead Tax Credit on a property they own in Baltimore County.
“The effect of these mailers was devastating, personally and politically. Mr. Mosby sent his mailers to my house. My two teenage children had to see a picture of their mother superimposed on prison bars,” Conaway wrote in the letter. “The mailing was received by their friends’ parents. The public reaction to the phony allegation was ugly. I have no doubt that the mailers swung 306 votes away from me, which was enough to lose the election.”
Conaway, in a telephone interview, said sending the letter was not “sour grapes” because of the election outcome. She said she began preparing to ask Rosenstein to investigate Mosby’s actions prior to the election.
“I think Mr. Mosby believes he will get a free pass because he’s backed by some very powerful people,” Conaway said.
Calls to Mosby’s cell phone were not answered and the voice mail was full.
Printed below in Conaway's letter in full:
September 19, 2011
Honorable Rod Rosenstein
District of Maryland
26 S. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Re: Use of the U.S. mail to misrepresent IRS
Dear Mr. Rosenstein:
I am writing to ask your office to prosecute one or more individuals for violating 18 U.S.C. §701 by using the logo of the IRS on mass-mailed materials that falsely accused me of lying to the IRS. The mailers were sent by the campaign committee of Nick Mosby, who defeated me in the democratic primary for City Council.
I lost to Mr. Mosby in the Democratic Primary for City Council last Tuesday by 611 of 5,473 total votes cast. In the week before the election, Mr. Mosby’s campaign mass-mailed the district with numerous 8 ½ by 11 inch cards, two of which I have attached. The first attached card used the official logo of the IRS, which is very familiar to members of the public. The text on this mailer implied that I made false statements to the IRS in order to get a tax break.
The second attached card did not use the IRS’ logo, but it was even more provocative. In the foreground, it showed me with my hands up in the air with a picture of two hands on prison bars in the background. The text read as follows:
RULES IN LIFE:
1. Work hard
2. Stay out of trouble
3. Pay your taxes
Belinda Conaway lied to get out of paying her fair share of taxes.
Imagine what would happen if you cheated on your taxes.
Everyone, even Belinda Conaway, should play by the rules.”
The combined message of these two mailers was to tell the voters that I had violated federal tax laws and that I was subject to enforcement action. A casual reader would think that I was on the verge of imprisonment for tax perjury. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of every tax year my husband and I give all of our information to a professional tax preparer. The tax preparer produces our returns, we sign them and mail them off. If we owe taxes, we pay.
The effect of these mailers was devastating, personally and politically. Mr. Mosby sent his mailers to my house. My two teenage children had to see a picture of their mother superimposed on prison bars. The mailing was received by their friends’ parents. The public reaction to the phony allegation was ugly. I have no doubt that the mailers swung 306 votes away from me, which was enough to lose the election. The impact of this imagery cannot be overstated in the first election after our former Mayor was removed from office
Mr. Mosby’s actions go well beyond permissible free speech and even beyond the bounds of political dirty tricks. Title 18, Section 701 specifically prohibits the unauthorized use of federal logos, including the IRS logo, in private communication. This statute has been used to prosecute perpetrators of Internet phishing scams and radical tax protestors (sic).
Mr. Mosby is no less culpable than the perpetrators of the phishing scams and the radical tax protestors (sic). In this case, Mr. Mosby fraudulently used the IRS’ logo to obtain nomination to a 4-year term to a public office that pays $58,000 a year. He thus used the U.S. mails to misrepresent the IRS in order to falsely obtain $232,000 in total salary.
There was nothing inadvertent about the misuse of the IRS logo. Mr. Mosby was represented in the election by a team of political campaign professionals. His wife – who was very active in his campaign – is an Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore City. I doubt that she would let someone use her official badge for private purposes. They knew exactly what they were doing. They used the IRS’ logo because they thought they could get away with it.
Mr. Mosby is not innocent. Public records in an unrelated matter also show that Mr. Mosby perjured himself in his own mother’s estate. After she died, he opened and closed her estate without disclosing the existence of a house with a mortgage. He thus delayed a payoff of the mortgage while retaining use of the house.
As Mr. Mosby and his handlers wrote in their attack mailers, There Are Rules in Life. Among them is 18 U.S.C §701. I respectfully ask that you prosecute him and the responsible members of his campaign staff for his flagrant violation of the law that protects the IRS’ logo from usurpation.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Belinda K. Conaway