Sunday, April 06, 2008

Navarro, Praisner Campaign Contributions Provide Ammo for Both Sides

Last Friday was the deadline for the final campaign finance reports before the County Council District 4 special election primary. Both the Navarro and Praisner camps will find them useful.

Nancy Navarro reported contributions from individuals of $12,196, the Hispanic Democratic club of $250 and Maryland PACs of $22,000 for total receipts of $34,446. Her campaign reported $28,380.81 on hand. Sixty-four percent of her contributions came from labor unions, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters ($6,000), the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters ($6,000), UFCW Local 1994, also known as MCGEO or the government employees ($5,000), SEIU Maryland/DC State Council ($3,000), SEIU Local 500 ($1,000) and the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO ($1,000). The fact that Navarro received nearly two-thirds of her contributions from labor rebuts the allegation that she is “developer-controlled.”

However, one name on her individual contributor list truly stands out: Aris Mardirossian, who gave her the maximum contribution of $4,000. Mardirossian is the developer of Crown Farm in Gaithersburg. He is notorious for once suing Montgomery County Civic Federation President Wayne Goldstein when Goldstein wrote him a letter inquiring about tree removal on his property. The lawsuit, widely viewed as a frivolous slap suit in MoCo’s civic community, still causes many anti-growth activists to make the sign of the cross whenever Mardirossian’s name is uttered in their presence. Navarro’s campaign made a mistake by accepting this contribution. Her opponents are sure to jump all over it despite the fact that Mardirossian also once gave $3,000 to Marilyn Praisner.

Donald Praisner has also filed an interesting finance report. His campaign reported contributions from individuals of $16,280, Council Member Phil Andrews’ campaign account of $750, and a loan from Mr. Praisner himself of $5,000 for total receipts of $22,030. His campaign reported $17,551.67 on hand. Mr. Praisner’s biggest contributors are Council Member Marc Elrich’s chief of staff Dale Tibbitts ($2,000), County Executive spouse Catherine Leggett ($1,000), former Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg staffer Bobbie Walton ($1,000) and Nicholas Miller of Bethesda ($1,000). (Geez, Dale, how much is Marc paying you?) Tibbitts, Leggett, Walton, Andrews, County Executive spokesman Patrick Lacefield ($200) and former Marilyn Praisner staffers Claire Iseli ($150) and Sherry Kinikin ($100), along with Mr. Praisner, comprised a core group of contributors who together accounted for 46% of his campaign’s funding.

Mr. Praisner told the Gazette last week that Navarro was the only candidate taking money from developers. His supporters have lambasted Navarro on this blog for failing to abstain from development money despite Marilyn Praisner’s ready acceptance of it. But two of Mr. Praisner’s contributors are connected to the real estate industry.

Nicholas Miller of Bethesda, who gave $1,000 to Mr. Praisner on 3/26/08, is a telecommunications lawyer with Miller and Van Eaton PLLC. According to its website, the firm’s clients include the “Building Owners and Managers Association, International, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the National Apartment Association, the National Multi-Housing Council, the National Realty Committee, and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.” Now this has nothing to do with development, right?

Gregory Eisenstadt of Brookeville gave $100 to Mr. Praisner on 3/24/08. Eisenstadt has been a steady supporter of Marilyn Praisner over the years, giving $314 to her campaigns between 2001 and 2005. Eisenstadt is the owner of Privacy World, a housing complex just north of the Glenmont Metro station due to be redeveloped by JBG Companies. The Privacy World redevelopment will be one of the bigger projects in District 4 if the County Council allows it to proceed. Eisenstadt’s relationship with the Praisners makes sense for him although his contribution runs afoul of Mr. Praisner’s pledge to avoid development money.

Let this be a lesson for all the aspiring politicians who read this blog: the worst thing about making a pledge is actually having to keep it!

Democrat Pat Ryan has raised a total of $10,825, of which $4,000 came from the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association. (Yes, this is the same union that gave $6,000 to Navarro.) Ryan is his own biggest individual contributor and gave his campaign $2,000 in seed money on 3/10/08. Ryan had $9,632.52 on hand, slightly more than half Mr. Praisner’s total and over one-third of Navarro’s holdings. Republican Mark Fennel has raised $1,705 with all but $300 coming from the candidate. Republican Thomas Hardman gave himself $100, the sole contribution to his campaign. Financial reports for Democrat Steve Kanstoroom and Republican John McKinnis are not yet available.

Now that the finance reporting deadline has passed and the special primary is fast closing in, District 4 voters will be treated to their most intense week of politicking since Marilyn Praisner defeated Mike Gudis way back in 1990. Lock your doors and let the answering machine fend off those robocalls!

Disclosure: I am the Assistant to the General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Our local affiliate, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, endorsed Nancy Navarro.