Marc Weller, who is seeking Board of Estimates’ approval this morning of $148 million in tax increment (TIF) bond financing for his Port Covington project, has sprinkled more than $80,000 to city and state politicians in recent years.
The money, coming from Weller, his wife Eileen and persons associated with his company, Weller Development, has been spread quite evenly among Democratic and Republican officeholders, a Brew review of campaign records shows.
Over $36,000 has gone to Democratic officeholders, led by Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Maryland State Senate President Bill Ferguson, and nearly $30,000 funneled to Republicans, most of it going to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.
Separately, Weller or his company wrote checks of $5,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee and $6,000 to the Republican State Central Committee, reports filed with the Maryland Board of Elections disclose.
Two of his business associates, Steven Siegel and Matt Rienzo, contributed another $7,250 to the Republican State Central Committee.
To make the Port Covington office and apartment project profitable, Weller needs tax breaks and infrastructure underwriting from both the city and state, according to MuniCap, a Columbia consulting firm.
City and State Cooperation
While Young is pushing this morning to grant Weller the largest amount of TIF funding in Baltimore city history, the bonds will be issued by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO), a state agency.
MEDCO is needed because Baltimore’s bonding limit has been reached thanks to prior TIF awards given to Harbor Point and other upscale developments.
Young’s campaign committee picked up $11,000 from Weller Development and Weller vice president Siegel just weeks before his administration started preparing plans for the first tranche of bond funding for Port Covington.
The Weller and Siegel contributions came last October and November; a month later, in December 2019, Young approved the TIF funding package as head of the Board of Finance, an obscure five-member panel that reviews city bond issues.
Young Introduces TIF
On Monday, the Young administration introduced the $148 million TIF funding request before the Board of Estimates.
Of that amount, fully $25 million will be used to reimburse Weller and his former partner, billionaire Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, for engineering, design and permitting costs to develop the original plan.
Among those costs, according to an unreleased MuniCap report reviewed by The Brew is $433,279 that Weller and Plank say they spent in legal and lobbying costs when Young was president of the Baltimore City Council.
Young controls three of the five Board of Estimates votes through his appointees, Public Works Director Matt Garbark and City Solicitor Dana Moore.
The other key elected official on the board, Brandon M. Scott, has only minimally enjoyed the largess of the Weller organization.
State records show that Scott received $1,000 from Weller in April 2019 when he was still a 2nd District Councilman.
Alicia Wilson, Scott’s childhood friend and longtime campaign treasurer, was vice president of Sagamore Development when it received City Council approval – with a “yes” vote from Scott – for TIF funding in 2016.
Now a high-ranking executive at Johns Hopkins University, Wilson resigned as Scott’s treasurer in February. Scott went on to win the Democratic Party primary for mayor earlier this month.
Hogan and other Contributions
The Hogan and Rutherford campaign committees have received over $15,000 from Weller and associates. Another $10,000 was paid by Weller to the Hogan-Rutherford 2018 Inaugural Committee.
In addition to these direct contributions, Weller gave $25,000 to Change Maryland Action Fund, a super PAC created by Hogan and his key supporters to influence public opinion on legislation before the General Assembly.
Ferguson, whose senate district covers Port Covington, has received $9,000 in contributions, with $6,000 coming from Siegel, who is not a Maryland resident but lives in Washington, D.C., and the rest from Weller Development.
Weller and his company have given $5,000 to City Councilman Eric Costello, $3,000 to northwest Councilman Issac “Yitzy” Schleifer, and $1,500 to Phylicia Porter, the Democratic Party nominee for the 10th Council District.
Weller and his wife lived for years in Chevy Chase. They currently are listed as the owners of two properties – a $2.6 million house in Chevy Chase and a second house in Potomac, MD., worth $4 million.
During his career, he pursued mid-sized development projects around metropolitan Washington.
After serving as a proxy for Plank to buy up industrial land in Port Covington, he took over as president of Plank’s Sagamore Development in 2015.
In 2017, he formed Weller Development, which is currently based at the Plank-owned City Garage facility in South Baltimore.