Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Politics, Money and Lies

The latest batch of District 4 campaign finance data is in and there’s something for everybody: a little bit of politics, a whole lot of money and a big fat lie! Following are cumulative totals for the 2009 election and details on contributors.

Nancy Navarro

Beginning Balance: $43,220.69
Contributions: $46,653.06
Loans: $5,000
Expenditures: $92,002.27
End Balance: $3,156.37

Navarro has received almost three times the contributions (excluding loans) as Ben Kramer and Cary Lamari combined. In our last post, we reported a list of everyone who had contributed at least $500 to her campaign. Since then, additional contributors who have exceeded that level include SEIU Local 500 PAC ($4,000), UFCW Local 400 ($4,000), County Council Member Valerie Ervin ($2,000), IBEW Local 26 ($1,000), Metro Washington Food & Allied Service Trades ($1,000), CWA COPE of Virginia ($500) and Silver Spring lawyer and developer Robert Hillerson ($500). Labor pulled out all the stops to help Navarro get elected, providing invaluable volunteer support and at least 44% of her contributions.

A few of Navarro’s other contributors in this filing include IMPACT Silver Spring Executive Director Frankie Blackburn ($100), fellow School Board Member Patricia O’Neill ($62.50), MCDCC Member Oscar Ramirez ($50), former County Council candidate Hans Riemer ($50) and, most interestingly, District 20 Delegate Sheila Hixson ($250). Hixson joins Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) and Heather Mizeur (D-20) as the only state legislators to back Navarro in the primary.

Lastly, Navarro accepted a $5,000 loan. The state’s database is crawling with bugs at the moment but her campaign tells us the loan came from Navarro’s husband. Even with abundant financial support from both business and labor, the nearly six-digit primary cost compelled Navarro to sink family money into the election.

Cary Lamari

Beginning Balance: $0
Contributions: $5,512.24
Loans: $10,000
Expenditures: $10,182.18
End Balance: $5,330.06

Lamari received just $1,080 in new contributions in the last days of the race. His new contributors included County Council Member Valerie Ervin ($200), a strong Navarro supporter, and former District 4 candidate Pat Ryan ($200).

Lamari earned just 730 votes, or 8.4% of Democratic primary voters. Despite being a decades-long civic activist and a former President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, Lamari could not keep up with Navarro and Kramer because both of them outspent him by about nine to one. Aspiring County Council candidates should heed this lesson: for a non-incumbent, even a district race now costs nearly $100,000 to compete.

Cary Lamari’s message of restraining overdevelopment and his emphasis on constituent service was closer to Marilyn Praisner’s philosophy than any other 2009 candidate. (Just ask Council Member Marc Elrich.) Yet, none of the politicians who endorsed Don Praisner supported Lamari and two of them (County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg) sided with developer Ben Kramer. Lamari’s supporters have just cause to wonder whether these politicians truly believe in the growth-restraining message on which they campaigned three years ago.

Ben Kramer

Beginning Balance: $316.44
Contributions: $11,761
Loans: $90,000
Expenditures: $93,262.71
End Balance: $8,814.73

Kramer’s contributors in the last days of the primary included philanthropist Carol Trawick ($500), land use attorney William Kominers ($100), lobbyist Ashlie Bagwell ($100), real estate lawyer Lawrence Shulman ($50) and Senator Brian Frosh’s (D-16) law firm, Karp, Frosh, Lapidus, Wigodsky & Norwind PA ($250). Kramer also received a loan for $40,000, which given his past history, probably came from him. (The state database is not being cooperative today!) But the following contribution is particularly troublesome.

Alison Klumpp famously told Maryland Moment that Kramer had “no intention of taking developer money” on March 9. Kramer himself went further, declaring at Leisure World, “I have not taken and agreed that I would not take money from developers in this campaign.” We then exposed Kramer’s acceptance of a $1,000 contribution from developer Josh Rales as well as the independent mailings on his behalf by the Maryland Realtors PAC. The Kramer campaign has ignored our research for over a month. Now we have caught him breaking his pledge again.

Below is a partial contributor list to Kramer from his latest report. Note the $500 contribution from Bethesda Center LLC, an entity based at 3299 K Street, NW, Suite #700, Washington, DC, 20007.

Here is Bethesda Center LLC’s Maryland corporate registration. Note its intention to “develop certain property in Montgomery County, Maryland” and the signature of Marc N. Duber, Executive Vice President.

Bethesda Center LLC’s address matches the Bernstein Companies.

The Bernstein Companies describes itself as “one of Washington D.C.’s oldest real estate development, investment, and management organizations.”

Here is their management team. Note the presence of Marc N. Duber, who signed Bethesda Center LLC’s registration.

Here is more on their development activities.

If that is not enough for you, Kramer also accepted a $6,000 contribution from the Maryland Realtors PAC on 4/29/09, a check that was reported eight days after the primary.

Some believe developer contributions matter and others do not. Nancy Navarro and Cary Lamari both accepted them but neither pledged not to do it. Whether developer contributions are inherently corrupting is a matter for the voters to decide but we are more concerned with basic honesty. And it’s time we called Kramer’s pledge not to take developer money exactly what it is:

A lie.