Where does Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake receive her strongest support? Overwhelmingly, from city contractors, developers, and law firms.
Over the last few months BALTILEAKS has crowdsourced the identification of contributors to the Mayor’s campaign. As of January 12, 2011, she had raised over $800,000. Our analysis revealed that many contributions could be traced to single individuals, skirting election laws, which limit individual per-cycle annual contributions to $4,000 maximum per person. We identified over $431,000 in contributions which could be traced definitively to such “major” donors.
Many of the very largest contributions can be traced to firms doing business with the city. You’ve probably never heard of Grant Capital Management, but they went to great lengths to become Rawlings-Blake’s top donor, coordinating $32,000 in donations, made via eight donors located in Washington, DC and Columbia – with none from Baltimore. Grant Capital Management has apparently financed the purchase and operation of city infrastructure, including city 911 and communications systems.
Likewise, you’ve probably never heard of Woda Group, but they have a city development deal to develop affordable housing in Penn North. They coordinated eight donations from donors in Ohio and Louisiana totaling $26,000. None of these contributions came from individuals located in Maryland or Baltimore.
Longtime Democratic party operative and O’Malley supporter Rick Berndt and his family used the Baltimore law firm Gallagher, Evelius, and Jones, where Berndt is a founding partner, to corral at least $31,450 from associates and family members. Over 50% of that firm’s partners and associates made “voluntary” contributions to the Mayor’s campaign.
The contributions from Gallagher, Evelius, and Jones fit a pattern of other major donations coordinated by law firms, designed to skirt election finance law, arranged by O’Malley fundraiser Colleen Martin-Lauer. Law firm Miles & Stockbridge contributed at least $11,380, spread across at least 22 donors. And law firms DLA Piper and Gordon Feinblatt rounded up at least $9,600 and $8,700 respectively.
A collection of scrap metal dealers delivered $7,000 presumably to help grease permitting, and what otherwise might be a strained relationship with the city and the police; it’s well known that scrap metal theft and recycling has long been one of Baltimore’s cottage industries for the city’s poor, addicted, and homeless.
A variety of other city contractors (Veolia ($8,500), operator of the Charm City Circulator), city employees (like Paul Graziano ($4,000), city housing commissioner, and the management of MECU ($3,000)), Mayoral communications contractor KO Public Relations ($4,600), and Councilwoman Rikki Spector ($4,600) round out a long list of notables, including Constellation Energy ($10,500) which spread donations across six sources, including the family of CEO Mayo Shattuck.
Also in the mix is convicted real estate developer and perennial Democratic donor Howard Perlow who scraped together $17,000 for the Mayor, using six different entities.
Glen Charlow, owner of Nick’s Fish House and Silo Point business partner with Developer #2 Pat Turner gained fame in the 2009 Sheila Dixon Trial, where it was documented that he purchased many of the gift cards that led to the Mayor’s conviction. He went on to contribute at least $9,250 to Rawlings-Blake.
Controversial night club owner James Temple contributed $6,000 across three different business entities. His clubs, Bourbon Street and MIST have had issues with city liquor licensing following incidents at those establishments.
Jay Davidson and other organizers of the Baltimore Grand Prix race contributed at least $7,500 across multiple parties.
And of course Rawlings-Blake also received $4,000 in illegal contributions from Ekaterina Nazarenko, a Russian national linked to steel giant Severstal; Colleen Martin-Lauer admitted that the contributions (which were also made to O’Malley’s campaign) were illegal and has said she would return the funds, but has offered no evidence that she has done so. We believe Martin-Lauer’s actions should be investigated by the Federal Election Commission.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake attempts to portray an image of popular support, but our study of the contributions is at odds with that characterization. With over 50% of her contributions identifiably originating from large organizations and entities or individuals with business before the city, it seems that the Mayor’s support is derived from the people who own, or would like to own, the city’s institutions and the Democratic party in Maryland.
The source data behind our analysis is available here.