If money does the talking in politics, then incumbent mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has bragging rights over next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The final round of campaign finance reports, released over the weekend, illustrates the many advantages incumbency holds in securing contributions from individuals and entities doing – or wanting to do – business with City Hall.
With checks flowing in from generous developers, contractors and several high-profile bars, Rawlings-Blake last month added $205,869 to her already-sizable war chest. This compares to $114,500 raised by Otis Rolley III and $187,800 rung up by Sen. Catherine E. Pugh.
Meanwhile, three other candidates for mayor have fallen into fundraising purgatory. They are Joseph T. “Jody” Landers, who raised $33,000, some of that from himself and his family; Frank M. Conaway, who eked by with a nominal $1,150; and Wilton Wilson, who reported no activity at all.
So what does the latest round of finance disclosures tell us?
For one thing, the three major candidates tap into very different sets of donors.
While Rawlings-Blake went for the regional moneyed class – aided by supremo fundraiser, Colleen Martin-Lauer, on loan from Gov. Martin O’Malley – Pugh solicited the black community both here and in Georgia, and Rolley relied on architects, consultants and other “good government” types as befitting his career as a city planner.
Another revelation: superlawyer and Orioles owner Peter Angelos is apparently sitting out the election. Despite his battles with the Rawlings-Blake administration over the Lexington Square “superblock” and State Center rebuilding, Angelos so far has not put his money on any of her challengers.
Rumor had it that Pugh became his pick when City Councilman Carl Stokes dropped out of the mayoral race in July. But no cash been forthcoming to Pugh (or Rolley or Landers) from Angelos affiliates. Instead two Angelos companies – Artemis Properties and PGA Court Towers – pumped $5,000 last month into Stokes’ campaign to retain his City Council seat and left the mayoral wannabes empty-handed.
What follows is an analysis of where the candidates picked up their final pile of cash – and identifies major donors, especially those masked under the names of limited partnerships in the state campaign finance records.
Superficially, West Baltimore’s state senator did almost as well as Rawlings-Blake in August. But Pugh’s totals are deceptive. First of all, she donated $6,000 to the campaign personally in August. (Her campaign also took out a $75,000 loan from car dealer Scott Donahoo.)
What’s more, her biggest cash contributor turned out to be her own campaign treasurer, lawyer and entertainment entrepreneur Keith E. Timmons. The Brew traced $18,000 in Pugh donation to five partnerships controlled by Timmons – ASAP Music Group, All 4 U Entertainment, Ket Group, 720 Newington and Baker Street Development. Under his own name, Timmons donated $500 more.
The lawyer, who also is treasurer of Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s reelection race for City Council President, did not respond to Brew calls to his St. Paul Place office.
Pugh tapped into other prominent members of the black community such as Edward Brunson ($4,000), son of the late radio station owner Dorothy E. Brunson [see below], Ashburton dermatologist Larry Gaston ($3,800), and attorney Robert Dashiell ($500).
One of the more curious aspects of the latest Pugh filing is the number of contributors who live in Georgia.
Fully $26,000 came from such folks as Ethel and Mitzi Bickers of Atlanta, Ardell Crump “of Straphham, Ga.” (an apparent typo; The Brew located an Ardell Crump in Statham, Ga.), and K. Greenwood of College Park, Ga.
One contributor who stands out by his relative prominence is Rashad Taylor, a Georgia state legislator, who contributed $2,500 to Pugh in his name, while another $3,000 came from the same Atlanta post office box on the same day by a Bonita Snipes.
In addition to Timmons, Pugh’s biggest local benefactor was Nuroots Communications LLC. It wrote three checks worth $11,000 on August 8, using the address of a rowhouse at Fayette St and Central Ave. that services computers. The owners of Nuroots could not be traced, but the rowhouse (1265 E. Fayette) is owned by the late Dorothy Brunson.
Other Pugh supporters include medical suppliers and pharmaceutical PACs, a petroleum association, CSX Railroad, several developers in suburban Washington, contractor M. Luis (a rare case where a Rawlings-Blake contributor donated to a rival), the owner of Shearz beauty salon in Little Italy (one Dawn Mauck, who plunked down a cool $4,000 on August 8) and Bethesda developer and former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party Nathan Landow (who pitched in $4,000).
Pugh and her fundraiser, Rachel Rice, who learned her craft working for Maryland State President Thomas V. Mike Miller, certainly have far-ranging Rolodexes.
Raising $115,000 from 332 contributors in August, Rolley had the greatest number of small contributors (ranging from $25 to $100). He also stuck more closely to donations from city residents, although some of his biggest contributions came from out-of-towners.
Victor Hoskins, Maryland secretary of housing under Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., who is now Washington D.C.’s deputy mayor for economic development, wrote a $4,000 check to Rolley last October and another for $2,000 last month. His architect wife, Diane Hoskins, earlier contributed $4,000.
One of Rolley’s biggest benefactors is Urban Policy Development, the Baltimore consulting firm he worked for before his run for mayor (he’s currently on leave). UPD does performance studies and “process engineering” for school districts, community groups and foundations around the country.
The company, its CEO Douglass Austin, his wife Eve Austin and partner Sherry Chen donated $10,000 to Rolley’s campaign.
He got another boost from philanthropists Harvey and Phyllis Meyerhoff. On August 4, they kicked in $8,000. Another $920 came from their daughter, Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein, in two installments.
Other Rolley contributors included The Michael Group and affiliate TMG, which describe themselves as Baltimore affordable housing contractors ($7,000); the Fraternal Order of Police and Retired Police Benevolent Association ($3,850); SPIN, a Baltimore pr firm for architects owned by Pauline Harris ($4,000); and Dan Naor, a local marina operator ($4,000).
Also, Peter Denton, an educational reformer from Palm Beach, Fla. ($2,000); Reginald Van Lee, a Booz Allen consultant in New York ($4,000); Laurene Powell Jobs, the wife of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs ($2,000); Baltimore City Community College President Carolane Williams ($200); Associated Black Charities President Diane Bell-McKoy ($250); and former Maryland Secretary of the Environment Shari Wilson ($1,000).
The former City Councilman and longtime executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors raised $33,000 from 115 contributors in August. He put $7,000 of his own money into the campaign and other family members chipped in more.
While many of his contributions came in small checks, he raised most of his cash funds from a handful of donors. His former employer contributed $6,000 on August 16; $5,000 more came from the Anne Arundel County Realtors PAC and $4,000 from the house-hunting website MRIS.
Altogether, Landers, who has made lowering property taxes and starting a land bank for abandoned houses his signature issues, raised about $20,000 from real-estate groups.
The mayor’s campaign entered August with multiples of the funds raised by her opponents. During the election cycle of 2007-11, her “Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for Baltimore” fund has accumulated $2,643,692.50, as of August 26. This financing juggernaut was in keeping with the electoral strategy of her mentor, ex-mayor and now Gov. O’Malley.
O’Malley engineered a fundraising apparatus that has purred along for the last two election cycles, quite undisturbed by the theft conviction that led to Mayor Sheila Dixon’s resignation in 2010 and Rawlings-Blake’s ascent to the city’s highest office.
Recent contributions underline the machine’s reach. On August 16, for example, the campaign raised $12,000 from six high-profile bars in Fells Point. On the same day, two restaurants and a record store coughed up $2,500.
Educational software maker Moodlerooms, a start-up seeking contracts with schools, gave the mayor’s campaign $4,000 on August 26, while managing director Martin Knott pitched in $2,000 more last month.
A Check from Caesars
Venture capitalists, however, were not the norm in Rawlings-Blake’s campaign list. Most checks arrived from established companies and trade groups representing members that do various lines of business with the city.
To wit: Comcast gave $9,500 through two entities; Homebuilders Association of Maryland wrote checks for $10,000; Lillian Hackerman, wife of construction magnate Willard Hackerman, tossed in $4,000; Gainesville Associates handed out $4,000; and Owings Mills concrete mogul Daniel Schuster mustered $2,500.
An interesting out-of-town check (from Las Vegas) was recorded by the mayor’s campaign committee on August 5. The $4,000 check came from Caesars Entertainment Corp., which is reportedly preparing to bid on the Baltimore casino.
Applications for a video lottery operator’s license are due next month before the Video Lottery Facility Location Committee, which earlier rejected Michael Moldenhauer’s proposal for a casino south of M&T Bank Stadium.
A relatively small donation ($500) came on August 25 from Motorola. The day before, at its weekly meeting, the Board of Estimates and Mayor Rawlings-Blake signed off on two contracts – worth $10 million and $1.5 million – with the Illinois-based communications giant.