The Money Game: the latest campaign-finance figures in Baltimore’s legislative district races
The most recent round of campaign finance reports for Baltimore City’s 12 legislative-district races – a Senate and House race in each of the six districts – were due late May at the Maryland State Board of Elections. The mass of new data reveals who’s betting how much on the 46 candidates vying to fill six Senate seats and 10 House seats, and how those candidates are investing in the hopes of victory. The races to watch are the June 24 Democratic primaries, since the victors are virtually assured gaining office in a city where Democrats’ voter-registration numbers dominate local politics.
Not all of the candidates have complied with the filing deadline, but those who did reported raising a total of nearly $500,000 and spending about $730,000 between Jan. 9 and May 20. The winners’ names will be on the general-election ballot on Nov. 4, where some of them face Republican, third-party, and independent candidates. The victors in those contests will be sworn in as elected officials in Annapolis, joining the ranks of the Maryland General Assembly’s 47 senators and 141 delegates with four-year terms to make their marks on behalf of their districts, the city, and the state. After the end of the legislature’s session in April, City Paper analyzed the incumbents’ accomplishments this year, providing a guide to their lawmaking records.
What follows are analyses of the most recent campaign-finance reports, presented in the order of the most financially active district to the least. The data paint a detailed portrait of the contemporary electoral economy in Baltimore, showing how money is flowing in pursuit of local power this election season.
46th Legislative District: $126,841.09 raised and $234,543.85 spent by seven candidates
The biggest-money contests are in this waterfront district, which is hosting a long-shot Senate challenge and hard-fought House race prompted by an open seat vacated by retiring state Del. Brian McHale, a veteran politician. The House victors will face Republicans Rodger D. Bedingfield, Joseph “Joh” Sedtal, and Duane Shelton in November’s general election.
Incumbent senator Bill Ferguson, who in 2010 ousted long-time city politician George Della, raised nearly $35,000 and spent almost $62,000, leaving a balance of $95,336.50. Ferguson’s top donor was a group of investors headed by developer Mark Sappertein, giving through two companies: MCS Fort Avenue LLC ($2,500), which is developing the Phillips Seafood headquarters in Locust Point, and BCP Investors LLC ($2,500), the Canton Crossing development company. Next up was Chris Gabrieli ($4,000), a former venture capitalist in Boston who pushes for education reform and has run for Congress and Governor of Massachusetts. Another important benefactor was Friends of Team 46 Slate ($3,973), a campaign-finance committee supporting Ferguson, state dels. Peter A. Hammen and Luke Clippinger, candidate Brooke Elizabeth Lierman, and the Orphans Court Campaign Slate, which supports sitting Baltimore City Orphans Court judges Stephan Fogleman, Michele Loewenthal, Lewyn Garrett, and Joyce Baylor-Thompson (who has withdrawn her candidacy).
On the spending side, Ferguson’s biggest bill this period was the $15,000 his campaign chipped in to the Friends of Team 46 Slate. Next up was $9,750 in consulting fees paid to Campaign Industries, an Evanston, Ill.-based firm whose principal is attorney Mac D’Alessandro, the former New England political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Finally, Ferguson’s campaign manager, Democratic Party activist and – like Ferguson – former Teach for America educator Alexandra Smith, earned almost $7,500.
Taking on Ferguson is Mateen Rasul Zar, a self-described “Naturopath doctor” who lives in Curtis Bay and has already announced his intention to run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Zar’s campaign raised $10,500 – $9,000 of which were loans from Zar – and spent nearly the same, dwindling his remaining balance to $1,095.79. His top donors were Javed Zar ($500), owner of Friendly Driving Academy, and Wahid Hussain ($500), head of the Aalay Rasool Foundation, an anti-poverty non-profit group. Much of Zar’s campaign spending this period went to his campaign manager, Farhana Zar ($1,000), and three campaign workers – Ibrahim Malik ($1,320), Mohammad Ismail ($1,205), and Gary Coakley ($1,030) – and to purchase campaign materials from Michigan-based Vista Print ($2,176.17).
In the House race, Clippinger, an incumbent facing his first re-election battle, raised almost $18,000 and spent nearly $14,000, leaving $55,343.41 in his campaign account. An assistant state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County, Clippinger’s top donor was Steve Kearney ($2,000), Gov. Martin O’Malley’s former communications director who is co-founder and owner of the communications firm Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs. Two other heavy-weights – Maryland lobbyist Sean Malone ($1,000), also a former O’Malley aide, and Scott Helm ($1,000), the driving force behind the Baltimore-based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company – gave big. Clippinger’s biggest campaign costs were $5,000 to the Friends of Team 46 Slate and $2,000 to pay his campaign manager, Charles Connor.
The senior member of the 46th District delegation, Hammen, raised no money this period – but, thanks to a fat campaign account, he could afford to spend almost $30,000 and still have $91,267.86 left over. In addition to the $5,000 his kicked in to the Friends of Team 46 Slate, large payments were made to Martin-Lauer Associates ($2,500) and his manager, Tucker Cavanagh ($3,000), a Democratic Party activist who used to work at the Pivot Group, a voter-communications firm that Hammen’s campaign paid $3,120 for graphic design. Also benefiting from Hammen’s largesse were two other politicians’ committees: The Committee to Elect Eric Bromwell ($1,000), a Baltimore County delegate, and Friends of Patrick Murray ($1,000), a Johns Hopkins lobbyist and former top aide to Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch who is running for delegate in Harford County.
Liam F. Davis, after raising about $7,500 and spending almost $5,300, has $6,510.06 left in his campaign account. Top backers include Picorp, Inc. ($1,000), an importer with a shipping-container yard in East Baltimore, headed by Gus Lambrow; European Upscale Redevelopment Organization LLC ($2,000), headed by Eric Ludwigsen, which provided an in-kind donation of Little Italy office space; and Cockey’s of Fells Point ($1,337), a tavern on Gough St. that provide a discount on libations for a fundraiser. Davis also got $500 from the campaign of his boss, Baltimore City Council president Bernard “Jack” Young, for whom Davis works as a community liaison. Davis’ biggest costs were for a fundraiser catered by Mission BBQ ($1,377.44) and yard signs produced by Kansas-based Gill Studios ($750.65).
Lierman is an attorney whose father is former Maryland Democratic Party chairman Terry Lierman, a family connection that may partly explain her success as a political money magnet who raised about $37,500 and spent almost $95,000, leaving a balance of $47,608.14.
Lierman’s top benefactor was 1199 SEIU – NYS Political Action Fund ($6,000), one of the healthcare-and-public-employee union’s main vehicles for making political donations around the country. Next up were an in-kind donation of a video produced by Houpla, Inc. ($2,043.75), a Baltimore media and branding company, and an in-kind donation of an advertisement by Edwin Warfield ($1,750), the former Daily Record owner who now heads citybizlist.com, a business e-newsletter. Other big-money donors were: real-estate executive and George Washington University trustee Morton Funger’s The Funger 2008 Trust ($1,000); Pompeian Olive Oil executive Frank Patton ($1,000); White House Office of Public Engagement associate director – and Lierman’s brother – Kyle Lierman ($1,000); Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit therapist Lois Feinblatt ($1,000); and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 486 PAC ($1,000).
The Lierman campaign invested heavily in political consulting, direct-mail services, and campaign materials by Moore Campaigns (nearly $44,000), a D.C.-based firm that boasts big-name Democratic clients such as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, but it also paid $7,329.19 to Martin-Lauer Associates, a favorite consultant for Maryland pols. In addition to cutting paychecks to campaign manager Elizabeth Richards ($16,650), a former staffer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the national party’s main organ for electing members of the U.S. Senate, Lierman’s campaign anted up $5,000 to the Friends of Team 46 Slate.
Bill Romani has a tough act to follow in Lierman, but he’s done a respectable job building a campaign that has $32,949.48 cash on hand after raising almost $19,000 and spending about the same. It’s no surprise, given Romani’s position as a local director for the American Association of Retired People, that his top donors are retirees – Peter Romani ($1,500) of Ithaca, NY, Rafael SanJuan ($1,000) of Chicago, and Aaron Knox ($800) of Fort Worth, Tex. – though Theodore Oberti ($1,000), described in Romani’s report as a Teamsters union official, was also a big-ticket benefactor. On the spending side this period, Romani’s campaign hired D.C.-based Local Politechs Strategies ($13,023.50) as its consultant, and paid $3,500 to its campaign manager, Andrew Mallinoff, a Democratic Party activist and former weight-and-fitness supervisor at University of Maryland’s Eppley Recreation Center in College Park.