Monday, April 20, 2009

Ben Kramer Repeats Broken Pledge at Leisure World

In Friday’s District 4 debate at Leisure World, Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) said, “I have not taken and agreed that I would not take money from developers in this campaign.”

That’s a nice line. But it’s not true.

Kramer originally pledged not to take developer contributions to Alison Klumpp according to Maryland Moment. Let’s put aside the issue of whether Kramer is himself a developer (although he admitted to building two commercial projects to Just Up the Pike’s Dan Reed). In a post on April 7, we identified a former part-owner of Home Properties Inc. and a commercial leasing lawyer as Kramer contributors. In yesterday’s post, we identified another contributor who was an officer of a medical office building owner. Whether they are “development interests” as Drew Powell might refer to them can be argued. But there can be no dispute about another Kramer contributor: Josh Rales, who gave him $1,000 on 2/25/09.

Josh Rales is a Republican-turned-Democrat from Potomac who ran for U.S. Senate in 2006. The corporate stub for his company, RFI Associates, classifies it is an “apartment operator,” one of many in Bethesda. Yellowbot says the company is in “real estate investments.”

On his YouTube site, Rales said, “In 1984, I founded RFI Associates, and over the last 21 years, I have built RFI into one of the leading investment companies in the area, specializing in acquiring, renovating, and overseeing real estate projects.” A Maryland Moment article from 7/26/06 refers to him as “a Montgomery County real estate developer and philanthropist” who poured over $1.4 million into his own campaign. An 8/11/06 Washington Post article says this:

For more than a decade, Rales made millions of dollars in real estate development and investments in the Maryland suburbs. In the past few years, he said, he has sold all of his investments in preparation for a run for public office.
But a 4/20/07 Gazette article refers to him as a “real estate investor.” And in his federal contribution filings, he repeatedly refers to himself as a “real estate investor” as recently as 9/2/08. By his own filings, Rales himself states that he is still in the industry that made him a fortune – ownership and development of property.

Furthermore, Kramer says nothing about independent expenditures made on his behalf by the Maryland Realtors PAC. Check the authority line at the bottom of these two mailers.

When Kramer tells a large group of seniors that he rejects developer money while the real estate industry is sending independent mailings promoting his candidacy all over the district, he may not be violating the letter of his pledge. But he is being deliberately duplicitous.

We are not naïve about statements made by politicians. Navarro’s negative mailers have become an issue during the campaign. Some believe they state unfair characterizations of Kramer’s voting record in the General Assembly. They are a legitimate subject of debate.

But unlike Navarro, Kramer made a pledge and still makes it even though he broke it weeks ago. Ever since we exposed Kramer’s reliance on the real estate industry (a contention backed up by neutral former Neighborspac Executive Director Drew Powell, who estimated Kramer’s development-related contribution percentage at 97%), his campaign has gone silent on the issue. And Kramer still repeats his broken pledge, even standing 20 feet away from me and looking into my camera at the Leisure World debate. Development contributions are an issue for some in the county but basic integrity is an issue for us all. And now I am calling out Ben Kramer’s campaign.

Return Josh Rales’ money and repudiate the mailings of the Maryland Realtors PAC.

Or retract your pledge.