Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rushern Baker on the Spot, Part Three (Updated)

Meet Bradford L. Seamon. He is the President, CEO and founder of B.L. Seamon Corporation, a minority business enterprise (MBE) government contractor based in Greenbelt with offices in Atlanta and Bedminster, New Jersey. He is also very, very close to Rushern Baker.

Bradford Seamon is a self-made man with smarts, savvy and guts. The District Chronicles has written of his struggles as a young black entrepreneur:

It’s been almost 18 years since Bradford Seamon rounded the corner on his block heading towards his house only to discover the “repo man” sitting in his front yard, waiting to take his car.

As a young entrepreneur in his late twenties, he was able to pay everyone on his payroll - everyone except for himself. He took another look at his yard and kept driving.

“That’s one of the risks that you take as an entrepreneur,” Seamon said. “It’s all about being an individual and being willing to take risks. The more risks, the higher the reward.”
Seamon founded his company in 1989 and has had great success working as a contractor for the federal government and private companies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Labor. His firm was named as one of the area’s top 100 MBEs in November. According to the company’s website, “BLS orchestrates meetings and events, designs communication materials and Web sites, and executes program services using advanced technology, expert staff, and unparalleled client service standards. We have built our reputation by providing top-notch service and designing seamless support that allow us to work in unison with our clients and their partners.”

Minority contracting is the mother’s milk of Prince George’s County politics. The county government is saturated with minority contractors who win public consulting, vending and construction contracts and then use part of their profits to contribute to the politicians in power. All of this creates a “pay-to-play” culture that exceeds anything that has ever been seen in Montgomery County. WSSC has been nearly paralyzed for years by the relentless focus of its Prince George’s County commissioners on minority contracting requirements. Many minority contractors spray their campaign contributions liberally across the county’s political establishment and beyond. But Bradford Seamon is different. He has contributed to only four political accounts: Barack Obama ($4,550), DNC Services Corporation ($1,250), State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey ($1,250) and Rushern Baker.

B.L. Seamon Corporation has made three loans to Baker: $693 on 10/18/99, $1,192 on 11/10/99 and $1,426.69 on 8/1/02. This is the period during which Baker, who served as a Delegate from 1995 through 2003, was preparing for and running in his first race for County Executive. Seamon, his company and his wife also made 21 different contributions to Baker worth $10,613.63 from 2000 through 2008. Many of these contributions reflect Seamon’s closeness to Baker: forgiveness of interest on loans, sale of office furniture, food for a fundraising event and even a $100 generator rental. There’s nothing unusual here. Loyal political supporters often make these kinds of contributions to their candidates.

What is unusual is the behavior of a company called MStream Inc. Founded on 4/23/02 by Seamon and his wife, the company’s purpose according to its Articles of Incorporation was, “to engage in investment management and other business ventures as the officers of the corporation may decide.” The company’s business address matched the Seamons’ home address in Upper Marlboro.

On 8/2/02, less than four months after its creation, MStream made a $100,000 loan to Baker. On 8/8/06, right before Baker’s second County Executive primary loss to Jack Johnson, MStream made another $65,000 loan to Baker. On 5/8/07, MStream made a final $1,000 loan to Baker. MStream forfeited its Maryland corporate registration on 10/5/07 for “failure to file property return for 2006.”

We cannot find any record of an MStream Inc. based in Upper Marlboro undertaking any actual business activities in Maryland or anywhere else. Furthermore, Baker was the only candidate recipient in Maryland of any contributions from MStream. The Baker campaign has repaid all of MStream’s loans, but we can find no record of any interest paid to the firm.

What was MStream’s scope of business? How did it get hold of $100,000 to loan to Baker after less than four months of existence? If MStream’s money came from Seamon, why would he not loan it under his own name? Did it come from somewhere else? Will we ever know the answers?

The traditional excuse used by candidates for transactions like these is that they cannot know everything about all of their donors. That is often true, but the excuse would fail in this case for two reasons.

1. All candidates know exactly where five- and six-digit loan checks come from.

2. Bradford Seamon has been Rushern Baker’s campaign Treasurer since 1992.

The story of Seamon, Baker and MStream’s money may never be known because it has never been investigated and perhaps never will be. But as generous as Seamon has been, he is not Baker’s biggest benefactor. We will reveal that person’s identity tomorrow.

Update: All contribution and loan data may be verified at the State Board of Elections campaign finance website.