A silent Councilman speaks volumes in his fundraising report
More than 95% of Councilman Welch’s political funds came from those living outside of his district, including a notable strip-club manager. The Brew’s examination of campaign finances continues.
Above: William “Pete” Welch at the 2011 City Council hearing before he was appointed to serve out the term of his mother, Agnes Welch.
When it comes to raising campaign cash, the quietest man on the City Council, William A. “Pete” Welch, looks outside the box.
Over 95% of the $24,900 Welch reported raising last year came not from his own constituents, but from people who can’t vote for him because they live outside his West Baltimore district.
A definite pattern can be seen if one reviews his latest campaign disclosure records. Two dozen residents in the district, which includes Sandtown, Harlem Park, Rosemont, Millhill and Hollins Market, paid the $30 minimum for fundraising tickets last year.
At the same time, tickets amounting to $200, $500, $1,000 or more were purchased by liquor store owners, lobbyists, developers, a prominent strip-club manager, a video gaming supplier and a tire recycler.
These contributors propelled Welch, who represents the poorest and most physically dilapidated Council district in Baltimore, to 5th place in terms of dollars raised among the body’s 14 members, The Brew’s review of fundraising records shows.
That’s quite an accomplishment for a legislator who rarely speaks at Council meetings and has a reputation as a no-show at committee hearings. He succeeded his mother, Agnes B. Welch, as the 9th district’s representative in 2011.
Welch did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls seeking to gain a perspective on his fundraising.
According to the report he filed with the Maryland Board of Elections, the bulk of his funds comes from people vested in his district’s few remaining manufacturing businesses and its plethora of liquor stores and bars. (Welch was a Baltimore City Liquor Board commissioner between 1997 and 2003, a period when he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and discharging a firearm.)
Heading his list of contributors is Emanuel Tire Co., which shreds millions of used tires every year on a six-acre plot near homes on Moreland Avenue, Braddish Avenue and Bentalou Street just south of Carver Vocational-Technical High School.
MORE ON MONEY AND POLITICS IN BALTIMORE:
• Beatty lavished funds on mayor and City Council as they lavished tax credits on Harbor Point (3/18/14)
• Councilmen say why they accepted donations from developer Beatty (3/24/14)
• Inside City Hall: Cole brings home the bucks (3/26/14)
Last year, the company gave $4,000 to Welch – the maximum individual contribution over an election cycle – at a fundraiser held at Mo’s seafood restaurant in Little Italy.
This was in keeping with the company’s generosity to both Welch and his mother amid years of controversy where the tire company was criticized by the West Baltimore community for storing mountains of tires and tire shreds.
Emanuel Tire contributed $2,000 to Agnes Welch during her last Council campaign in 2007.
It then transferred its allegiance to her son when he was appointed in her place, pouring $3,500 into his 2011 election.
Norman J. Emanuel, founder and owner of the company, did not return two phone calls seeking comment.
Several other local companies gave to the Councilman, including wholesale grocer B. Green ($500), pizza dough maker Lattakia ($500), United Iron & Metal ($500) and Treasures Trucking ($250).
Welch’s longtime ties to the liquor industry yielded at least $5,000 in campaign contributions last year. A number of liquor store owners donated directly to his campaign, such as Jerry’s Liquor on Poplar Grove Street ($100), Fulton Liquor ($200), K&C Big Bill’s Liquor ($200) and Jong Sub Park of J&J Discount Liquor and Bar ($200).
The Korean American Coalition for Fair Zoning and KAGRO (the Korean American Grocer’s & Licensed Beverage Association of Maryland) contributed $1,500 to Welch. The groups, representing Korean shop owners who operate scores of “non-conforming” liquor stores in Welch’s district, are actively involved in fighting the Planning Department’s TransForm rezoning plan now before the Council.
The lobbyist representing the Korean American Zoning Coalition is Lisa Harris Jones, who paid $500 to Welch’s 2011 campaign.
A Noted Strip Club Manager
One of Welch’s biggest backers is Four One Four, a corporation formed by Kenneth A. “Kenny Bird” Jackson.
A convicted felon turned businessman whose life inspired the character, Stringer Bell, in David Simon’s HBO drama “The Wire,” Jackson has been involved with the Eldorado strip club since Welch was a member of the Liquor Board and the club was located in West Baltimore.
Four One Four contributed $700 for Welch last year. The corporation’s address is the Eldorado Club, which is now located at 4100 E. Lombard Street in Highlandtown.
Tax records show that the building is owned by K.A.J. Enterprises, whose resident agent is Kenneth Jackson. The company is currently listed as “forfeited” in Maryland records. Attempts to reach Jackson, who has managed the club for his mother, Rosalie, were unsuccessful.
Video Gaming Mogul
Another big giver last year was John Zorzit, a video slot machine operator who settled a federal civil forfeiture action against his company for $1 million in 2010.
Federal prosecutors originally charged that 17 properties and 14 business bank accounts controlled by Zorzit were the proceeds of an illegal gambling operation that netted the businessman $18 million between 2003 and 2006.
(The video slot machines located in bars and liquor stores are legal for amusement purposes, but prosecutors alleged that the players would bet money on the slot machines. Zorzit has said his now-dissolved company, Nick’s Amusements, operated entertainment games.)
Zorzit purchased tickets worth $1,000 to Welch’s Little Italy fundraiser last September 19. Two years earlier, Zorzit contributed $500 to the councilman through Norino Properties, which housed Club 410, a Harford Road nightclub linked by police to gang activity and drug dealing and eventually closed down.
Zorzit did not respond to The Brew’s emailed request for comment.
Lobbyists and Developers
Other liquor-related contributors to Welch include Frank D. Boston III ($500), a lawyer-lobbyist retained by beer maker MillerCoors and the Baltimore Licensed Beverage Association, and Stanley S. Fine ($250), who represents CBAC Gaming, the consortium building Horseshoe Casino Baltimore that will host numerous bars and restaurants for gamblers.
Prominent among the entities contributing cash last year to the councilman was Harbor Point Development. The group purchased two $250 tickets to Welch’s Little Italy fundraiser days after he (and 11 other council members) voted to approve Harbor Point’s controversial $107 million in TIF tax incentives.
Other developers included Theo Rodgers ($300), who started A&R Dvelopment with the late William “Little Willie” Adams and is an investor in Horseshoe Casino Baltimore; Woda Management ($250), a subsidized housing builder; Michael Barland ($500), an executive at the Housing Service Alliance; and AU Granite & Marble ($2,000), an Annapolis-based home remodeler.