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Inside City Hall: Cole brings home the bucks

An impressive political war chest has been amassed by the Councilman from the 11th District

Above: Bill Cole, king of contributions at Baltimore’s City Council.

When William H. “Bill” Cole IV told us that developer Michael Beatty’s campaign contribution amounted to less than one-half of 1% of the funds he raised last year – and just two-tenths of his overall political war chest – we were intrigued.

How much is the councilman, who represents Bolton Hill, Mt. Vernon, the Inner Harbor and a good swath of South Baltimore, worth in terms of campaign dollars?

Far more than his 13 colleagues, it turns out, based on recent election board filings.

Cole last year raised $64,400 – an off-election year – bringing his cash balance at the start of 2014 to $121,462. And that’s after he transferred $6,000 to the political committee of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown before the start of the General Assembly caused a “blackout” of contributions to state officeholders.

Nearly all of Cole’s 2013 funds were drawn from a single fundraiser where many movers and shakers, in addition to Beatty, paid tribute in the form of checks written out to “Friends of William Cole.”


Among those contributing to Cole last year were Ed Hale, former president of First Mariner Bancorp ($500); various entities of South Baltimore apartment builder Caves Valley Partners ($1,000); BA Maple Lawn, an affiliate of the Bozzuto Group ($1,000); Ballard Spahr, the real estate attorneys ($500); Arrow Parking’s Benjamin Greenwald ($1,000); developer David S. Brown Enterprises ($1,000); builders Kaine Investments and TA Development ($2,000); Stonewall Capital ($1,000); and Max Development ($1,000).

Also in the mix were some veteran City Hall hands, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s former deputy Christopher Thomaskutty ($100) and her ex-communications chief Ryan O’Doherty ($200), who contributed to Cole while he was still the mayor’s spokesman.

Ever since he ran for the Council in 2007 – with a starting balance of just $3.96, according to his filings – Cole has been a prolific fundraiser.

Campaign reports show that while many donations came from his constituents, the bulk of the money flowed from individuals living outside of his district’s zip codes.

Given that the 11th District covers downtown and several affluent neighborhoods to the north and south, perhaps his success was preordained. But other factors have also come into play.

His longtime campaign chairman is Paul C. O’Malley, the lawyer-brother of Gov. Martin O’Malley; his fundraiser is Martin-Lauer Associates, ground-zero for Democratic Party money raising; and he’s one of the closest Council members to the mayor, which gives him access to developers and lawyers.

Donors in the News

What’s more, as working-class South Baltimore evolves into an island of upscale townhouses, restaurants and bars, Cole has gained supporters through his ties with local power players.

For example, two Cole campaign givers are Peter E. Auchincloss, chairman of the Baltimore Parking Authority, and attorney Joseph R. Woolman.

Last week, The Brew reported that Auchincloss approached Cole to intervene in a Zoning Board matter regarding Crossbar, a beer garden proposed in Federal Hill that’s represented by Woolman.

Cole said that he did talk to David Tanner, the Zoning Board’s director, but only to find out when Tanner’s written decision would be issued.

Auchincloss has given $2,250 to Cole, election board records show, while Woolman and his law firm have chipped in $1,000.

In another case, Somerset Development Co. of Washington, D.C., gave Coles $500 at his fundraiser last year. Last week, the mayor and Board of Estimates approved PILOT tax breaks for a partnership controlled by Somerset to rehab the high-rise Memorial Apartments in Cole’s Bolton Hill district.

Next Chapter?

What is the Councilman planning to do with his stash?

One scenario would be to use it to bankroll a bid for higher office, such as City Council president. (Cole unsuccessfully sought that post in 2010, with the Rawlings-Blake’s stealth help, after she vacated the office to become mayor following the forced resignation of Sheila Dixon).

Or perhaps he’ll wait for an opportune time to run for mayor himself.

So far, he hasn’t gotten back to us with a response.

TO COME: Money raised and spent by other Council members.

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