The current occupants of Baltimore’s seat of government won’t be up for reelection until 2020, but that doesn’t mean they’ve slacked off on replenishing their campaign coffers.
The “City Hall 17” – consisting of one mayor, one council president, one comptroller and 14 council members – raised $697,174 in political contributions in 2017, according to annual reports filed last month with the Maryland Board of Elections.
If that seems like a good bit of pocket change for an off-off-election year, consider this:
Combined with what was already sitting in their treasury accounts, the 17 now possess $1,899,619 in campaign cash, The Brew’s review of the latest filings shows.
That averages out to $112,000 per official. But averages mean little when the political committees of the three citywide officeholders (Mayor Catherine Pugh, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt) claim two-thirds of the wealth.
Checks to Pugh and Young came from longtime contributors – BGE, sewer contractor Spiniello Companies and Las Vegas “Maryland Party” founder Howard Perlow – and from donors representing new-found sources.
The principals behind Caves Valley Partners were a robust source of campaign capital for the mayor (CVP’s Steven Sibel recently became Pugh’s finance committee chairman).
Other contributors included executives from conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, cannabis company Curio Wellness, and jewelry maker Pandora.
Missing from the Money Tree
Noticeably absent on the 2017 donor list was Kevin Plank.
Even though Pugh, Pratt, Young and 11th District Councilman Eric Costello went to bat trying to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Plank’s long-promised-but-currently-not-happening Port Covington project, giveback wasn’t on the mind of the athletic-wear mogul.
No contributions appear to have been made by Plank or his sidekick, Marc Weller.
Nor did any contributions materialize from Under Armour, Sagamore Development, Plank Industries or Weller Development. (In an interesting twist, Weller and his wife Eileen hosted a fundraiser for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan a few days before the city sent off Plank’s bid to Amazon.)
A few things we have found about these political payments:
• They’re strategic. For the most part, the contributions should be considered a down payment by members of the donor class on what will be contributed (if said donor remains pleased with the officeholder) in the 2020 election.
15 of the 17 elected officials got the bulk of their campaign funds from out-of-district – and frequently out-of-city – “special interests.”
• They benefit from a loophole. $6,000 is the limit that an individual person or company can contribute to a campaign during the four-year election cycle. It’s perfectly legal, however, for an individual to donate in the names of family members or business associates or different LLCs* (limited liability companies), thereby increasing their generosity while making it harder to trace the transactions in public records.
* this is the favorite method of developers, who may control a half-dozen-plus obscurely-named LLCs.
• They rarely reflect a “populist” approach. Fifteen of the 17 electives secured the bulk of their funds from out-of-district – and often out-of-city – “special interests.” The typical donation was pricey for an average citizen – $750 in the case of Mayor Pugh.
• Finding support in the grassroots. Two Councilmen, Zeke Cohen and Ryan Dorsey, raised money through fundraisers with tickets as low as $10 and donors able to buy as few as one.
• The pass-through game. Many Council members are passive recipients of contributions by unions, trade groups, lobbyists and developer interests, whose sole purpose for giving seems to be maintaining the status quo or securing a favor.
Below is a detailed rundown of who reaped what from whom among the City Hall 17, in descending order of the money raised.
Amount Raised in 2017: $208,205
Current Cash Balance: $492,723
Sample Contributors: BGE/Exelon/Constellation ($12,000); Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White ($11,000, plus $524 in-kind contribution); Steven Sibel, Caves Valley Partners and associates ($8,750); Steven Fader, MileOne, Atlantic Properties and associates ($8,000); Pandora Jewelry and former president Scott Burger ($7,500); DavCo Restaurants, a fast-food franchiser ($6,000); associates of Howard Perlow, organizer of the annual Maryland Party in Las Vegas ($3,000); Uptown Press, a printer of her campaign literature ($3,000); Ace Uniform Services ($2,500); Saiontz & Kirk ($2,000); Michael Bronfein, principal in Lutherville’s Curio Wellness cannabis company ($1,250); J. Duncan Smith, vice president and secretary of the Sinclair Broadcast Group ($1,000); Magerk’s Pub ($1,000); Big Boyz Bail Bonds ($1,000), lobbyist-lawyers Harris Jones & Malone ($1,000); Andy Frank, special advisor to the president of Johns Hopkins University ($1,000); James D. Witty of Howard Bank ($1,000); Ronnie Rosenbluth, co-founder of Shomrim citizens patrol ($250).
Sample Expenses: Mayson-Dixon Strategic Consulting, the mayor’s new fundraiser ($30,962), returned contributions to settle Maryland Prosecutor’s case against aide Gary Brown Jr. ($18,000), candidate loans paid back to Catherine Pugh ($13,772).
NOTES: Pugh raised most of her money before and after Christmas, with invitation-only events at the Caves Valley Golf Club, Gertrude’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The December 6 Caves Valley fundraiser was organized by real estate developer and Pugh finance chairman Steven Sibel. . . No labor union (with the exception of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees PAC) supported Pugh, who vetoed the $15 minimum wage bill last spring. The Theatrical union gave her $250. . . Pugh is actively planning her reelection. Mayson-Dixon Consulting was hired to be her fundraiser, headed by Jayson Williams, who cut his teeth as an aide to Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. . . Exelon and BGE arranged for 23 company executives to make donations to the mayor in $500 and $750 increments. . . Pugh’s campaign committee repaid the final tranche of $73,000 in loans she made to her committee going back to the early 2000s. . . The campaign returned a $3,500 check from J.P. Grant, the Columbia financier and ex-promoter of the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Young is a meat-and-potatoes guy who vacuums up contributions from contractors and consultants and staff.
Council President Young
Amount Raised in 2017: $136,195
Current Cash Balance: $571,781
Sample Contributors: Atlantic Recycling, Baltimore Recycling, Baltimore Scrap Corp. ($5,500), American Beverage Association and MD-DEL-DC Beverage Association ($4,000), Spiniello Companies ($1,000 last year, $7,500 since 2013), Residential Title & Escrow/Howard Perlow ($2,000), JAM Enterprises ($3,000), KCI Technologies ($2,500), Baltimore Gas & Electric CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. and BGE PAC ($2,000), George P. Mahoney, Monumental Paving ($1,000), Daniel Schuster, Schuster Concrete ($1,000), Gateway of Naples ($4,000), Inner Harbor East Garage ($2,000), lawyer-lobbyist Jon Laria ($500), K&C Big Bill Liquors ($500), Lester Davis ($250), Mary J. Demory ($200), PP&G Inc. ($1,000).
Sample Expenses: Keith Timmons, campaign treasurer ($6,500), and The Mellinger Group, his fundraiser ($7,595).
NOTES: Young is a meat-and-potatoes guy who vacuums up contributions from contractors and consultants who come before the Board of Estimates he presides over (e.g., Spiniello, KCI Technologies, George P. Mahoney’s Monumental Paving). Then there are the businessmen who come before the City Council for zoning, PUD (planned urban development) and other measures. . . Young’s immediate staff, such as spokesman Lester Davis and executive assistant Mary Demory, chip in to the collection plate. . . Gateway of Naples, a Florida concern, can be traced back to Baltimore’s Continental Realty Corp. . . Inner Harbor East Garage LLC is controlled by the Paterakis family. . . PP&G Inc. owns Norma Jean’s, a strip club on The Block.
Amount raised in 2017: $3,750
Current Cash Balance: $233,356
Two Major Contributors: Integrity Title & Escrow of Owings Mills ($2,000) and Charles Management ($1,000).
Sample Expenses: Donations to UMBC ($1,000) and Helping Up Mission ($1,000), payment to a YouthWorks summer employee ($1,500).
NOTES: Having held her job since 1995, Pratt is enjoying a sixth term as comptroller with a heap of unspent campaign cash.
Councilman Eric Costello (11th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $107,354
Current Cash Balance: $125,232
Sample Contributors: Alexander F. Smith, restaurant entrepreneur and scion of the Paterakis and Smith/Sinclair Broadcast families ($6,000); Inner Harbor East Garage and Comm-Foods, both associated with Paterakis family ($3,000); Christina Ghani of Visit Baltimore and formerly with the Hilton Hotels ($4,000); Tyler Banks of Charm City Builders ($3,000); Stephanie Mineo of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., owners of Harborplace ($2,000); GGC LLC, Stephen Gorn’s Questar group that is completing a 44-story luxury apartment tower at the Inner Harbor ($2,000); Mount Vernon developer Dennis Richter, who recently won approval to build on the site of Eddie’s Supermarket in Mount Vernon ($2,000); Benjamin Greenwald/Arrow Parking ($1,250); McGerk’s Pub ($1,500); Timothy Regan, chief of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. ($1,000); developer Eugene Poverni ($1,000); ex-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s campaign committee ($500); Howard Perlow’s Residential Title & Escrow ($2,000); Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police PAC ($1,000); consultant and former Parking Authority chairman Peter Auchincloss ($1,000); Roula Passon-Paterakis ($500); GGC-Baltimore LLC ($500).
Sample Expenses: $5,894 to Rice Consulting, $6,000 transferred to 46th District Delegate Robbyn Lewis’ campaign committee, and $2,000 paid to the firm of Joseph Woolman, lawyer for bar owners, for a fundraiser.
NOTES: Ensconced in Baltimore’s mostly prosperous near-south, central and near-north districts, Costello has become a key City Hall player by dint of (on one hand) his strong constituent services and (on the other) his doing what Council President Young wants him to do. . . Being pro-business and pro-developer makes him a favorite among business interests, including the John Paterakis/H&S Bakery empire. . . Costello got $500 from Roula Passon-Paterakis, John’s widow who now is in a bitter court battle with the Paterakis children over the patriarch’s fortune. . . GGC-Baltimore LLC is the creation of Maurice “Mo” Wyatt, the legendary patronage chief of ex-Gov. Marvin Mandel. GGC-Baltimore owns Gentlemen’s Gold, an establishment that bills itself as “Maryland’s premier upscale adult entertainment complex.”
Councilman Yitzy Schleifer (5th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $101,515
Current Cash Balance: $98,880
Sample Contributors: Howard Perlow’s Residential Title & Escrow ($6,000); Alexander F. Smith, restaurant entrepreneur and his brother/partner Eric Smith ($5,500); Inner Harbor East Garage and Comm-Foods, both associated with the Paterakis family ($3,500); Caves Valley Partners ($2,000); Dinovitz Capital associated with lawyer Aaron Dinovitz ($6,000); MCS Fort Avenue controlled by Locust Point developer Mark Sapperstein ($2,000); MileOne Auto headed by Steven Fader ($1,000); J.R. Woolman LLC ($1,000); Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police PAC ($500); Eastern Avenue Health Solution, a drug treatment center owned by Moshe Markowitz ($500); Kalman Finkelstein of the Price Busters discount furniture chain ($2,000); Pikesville developer Mark Renbaum ($500); Rabbi Shmuel Silber, who recently awarded Schleifer a “Pillar of the Community” award ($250); Danny Harris, a founding member of patrol group Shomrim Baltimore ($500).
Sample Expenses: Oakleaf Catering ($6,000), Constant Contact online advertising ($637) and Dunkin’ Donuts ($13.30).
NOTES: The rookie councilman has established himself as a law-and-order advocate who secured a $50,000 command patrol vehicle for the Shomrim patrol group (financed with Pimlico slots money) approved by Mayor Pugh. . . Despite representing voters on the far northwest end of town, Schleifer attracts many of the same business interests that back Costello. . . Ditto for the Baltimore Police union, whose PAC contributed $1,000 to Costello and $500 to Schleifer.
Councilman Leon Pinkett (7th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $44,550
Current Cash Balance: $30,116
Sample Contributors: Developers David Bramble and Mark Renbaum spearheading the Madison North project on North Avenue ($3,250), Arsh Mirmiran and Arthur Adler of Caves Valley Partners ($2,000), J.P. Grant of Grant Capital Management ($2,000), Howard Perlow’s Residential Title & Escrow ($1,500), Baltimore Planning Commission Chairman Sean Davis ($1,500), National Materials owned by “Demolition King” Pless B. Jones ($1,000), liquor lawyer Joseph Woolman ($1,000), developer Jonathan Ehrenfeld ($1,000), Mark Sapperstein’s MCS Fort Avenue ($1,000).
Sample Expenses: Binetti Political Strategies, a fundraising shop associated with former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ($12,000), $1,175 for a BBQ supplier.
NOTES: As a former Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) senior officer and an aide to Rawlings-Blake, Pinkett forged ties with developers and consultants. How these relationships might spur new projects in the deeply depressed Penn North, Coppin Hills and Mondawmin areas of his district is unknown. . . So far, the biggest project is a hollowed-out strip of North Avenue designated as the future Madison Park North project. A cluster of parties involved in its development, including MCB Real Estate, Mark Renbaum, Morris & Ritchie and ex-BDC officer Caroline Paff, have funneled roughly $10,000 to Pinkett’s campaign committee since 2016.
Councilman Ryan Dorsey (3rd)
Amount raised in 2017: $32,454
Current Cash Balance: $58,824
Sample Contributors: AFSCME ($2,000), Plumbers & Steamfitters ($1,000), George P. Mahoney ($1,000), Frankford Towing, Universal Towing and four other towing companies ($4,500), theater software developer Chris Ashworth ($1,000), philanthropist Jane Brown ($500), developer Mark Renbaum ($500), lawyer-lobbyist Frank D. Boston ($500).
Sample Expense: About $3,000 to pay for artwork and food at a November fundraiser.
NOTES: Dorsey’s small contributors included bike advocates and artists chipping in $10 or $20 to buy fundraising tickets. . . His big donors came from the ranks of some grizzled veterans of city politics (street paver George Mahoney, parking garage owner Benjamin Greenwald, liquor lawyer Joseph Woolman, lobbyist Frank Boston).
Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st)
Amount Raised in 2017: $25,554
Cash Balance: $85,531
Major Contributors: Corporate Office Properties Trust ($1,000), Greenspring Realty ($1,000), Russet Distribution System ($1,000), developer Mark Sapperstein ($1,000), liquor lawyer Joseph Woolman ($500).
Major Expense: For campaign workers and consultants ($12,867).
NOTES: In a district teeming with waterfront development, few developer dollars went to Cohen. . . Most contributions came from $50 ticket purchases (or multiples of $50) by residents attending fundraisers at local restaurants. . . Holding a $86,721 cash surplus from his 2016 campaign, Cohen wound up with a little less money at the end of 2017.
Councilman Brandon Scott (2nd)
Amount Raised in 2017: $20,910
Current Cash Balance: $56,658
Sample Contributors: Baltimore City Fire Fighters and Officers ($1,000), Frankfort Towing ($1,000), Ken Gorn of Lord Baltimore Uniform ($1,000), GGC-Baltimore/Gentlemen’s Gold Club ($1,000), Timothy Regan of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. ($1,000), developer Douglas Schmidt ($500), UFCW Local 27 ($750), Coca Cola Bottling of Charlotte, N.C. ($500), Pompeian, the olive oil maker ($500), City Union of Baltimore ($250), ex-Parking Authority chairman Peter Auchincloss ($250).
Sample Expenses: McCray Winkler Strategies ($2,600), Maryland Democratic Party ($650).
NOTES: Scott reached out to city unions for cash. . . By tamping down on spending, he modestly boosted his campaign treasury.
Councilman John Bullock (9th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $15,964
Current Cash Balance: $16,472
Sample Contributors: Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters ($1,000), parking garage owner Benjamin Greenwald ($1,000), Planning Commission Chairman Sean Davis of Morris & Ritchie ($1,000), SEIU’s United American Dream Fund ($500), Unite Here Local 7 ($500), Coca Cola Bottling of Charlotte, N.C. ($500), developer Eugene Poverni ($500), liquor lawyer Joseph Woolman ($250).
Sample Expenses: Martin-Lauer Associates ($4,568), volunteer worker meals ($1,200).
NOTES: Out-of-town labor unions were Bullock’s mainstay. . . With little in the bank, he and his fundraiser, Colleen Martin-Lauer, need to get cracking!
Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (13th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $9,572
Current Cash Balance: $49,036
Sample Contributors: SEIU’s United American Dream Fund ($500), Baltimore Fire Officers ($500), Unite Here ($500), Maryland Realtors PAC ($500), Coca Cola Bottling of Charlotte, N.C. ($500), Lobbyist Frank D. Boston III ($500), Sean Davis of Morris & Ritchie ($500), Jackson S. Haden, owner of the Baltimore Recycling Center ($500).
Sample Expenses: Martin-Lauer Associates ($1,572), Citizens for Terrell Boston Smith ($1,000), Friends of Christopher Johnson ($500).
NOTES: The Eastside rookie added to her $44,000 election-year surplus mostly by tapping into Martin-Lauer’s Rolodex of reliable labor and business donors. . . Another small contributor was Raffle Ready, an online company founded and co-owned by Sneed’s colleague, Yitzy Schleifer.
Councilman Robert Stokes (12th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $5,570
Current Cash Balance: $5,922
Sample Contributors: P.J. Foods/Burger King ($750), Calvin B. Scruggs Funeral Home ($600), Baltimore Fire Officers ($500), Hyun’s Liquors ($300).
Sample Expenses: Fundraiser at Captain James Landing ($3,653), non-candidate loan repaid to auctioneers Melnick Newell ($1,947), candidate loan repaid to Robert Stokes ($200).
NOTES: Stokes’ fundraiser at Captain James barely paid for itself.
Councilman Kristerfer Burnett (8th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $2,211
Current Cash Balance: $9,865
Sample Contributors: Kaine Investments ($500), Unite Here Local 7 ($250), Watermark Corp./Peter Auchincloss ($250), Comcast ($150).
Sample Expenses: Website development ($368), Go Northwest Housing Resource Center ($50).
NOTES: The ex-community organizer raised little and spent even less.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $2,000
Current Cash Balance: $20,301
Only Contributors: International Union of Painters and Allied Trades ($1,000), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 24 ($1,000).
Sample Expenses: Verizon Wireless ($317), Friends of Cory McCray ($125)
NOTES: What else needs to be said: Clarke is a 14th District fixture.
Councilman Edward Reisinger (10th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $1,750
Current Cash Balance: $4,196
Only Contributors: Atlantic Recycling ($1,000), law firm Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones ($500), Comcast ($250).
Sample Expenses: Turkeys for Cherry Hill at Christmas ($585), food for Morrell Park and Cherry Hill community cookouts ($705), suite for campaign volunteers at Orioles game ($650), donation for pancake breakfast at St. Marks Church ($100).
NOTES: After two decades as Southwest’s councilman, the 67-year-old is on the glide path to retirement.
Councilwoman Sharon Middleton (6th)
Amount Raised in 2017: $500
Current Cash Balance: $59,387
Sole Contributor: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake For Baltimore Committee ($500).
Main Expense: Donation to Back to School Community Day for Park Heights ($500).
NOTES: Resting on the laurels of her campaign surplus, Middleton took a sabbatical in 2017.
Councilman Bill Henry (4th)
Amount Raised: Less than $1,000
Cash Balance at end of 2016: $8,762
NOTE: Henry submitted an affidavit to the elections board stating that he did not raise or spend $1,000 or more in 2017 and, therefore, did not have to a submit a campaign finance report.