Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rawlings-Blake Taps Super-Lobbyist as Transition Team Counsel

Incoming Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is proposing broad changes in the city’s ethics laws to “strengthen public trust,” has picked an ultra-connected super-lobbyist to advise her transition team. Is this real change for Baltimore?

Meet Eric Bryant, a partner with Maryland powerhouse law firm Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver. According to Rifkin’s press release announcing the incoming Mayor’s selection of Bryant as transition team counsel, “In preparing to take office, Council President Rawlings-Blake appointed a five-member leadership team to work with her over the next six weeks to prepare to take over the reins of city government. There are four co-chairs to the leadership with Eric serving as counsel to the effort.” That puts Bryant in the pilot’s seat for determining the early configuration of the new administration.

Bryant’s client list includes a staggering 45 entities, more than even legendary lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who has 30. Bryant represents power companies (including EDF, which owns a minority share of Constellation Energy), realtor associations, trade associations, the Maryland Jockey Club and many, many more. Twenty-one of his clients are headquartered outside of Maryland. How many of them do business with the city? Bryant has made 113 political contributions to state and local candidates worth $20,349 over the last ten years, including $1,280 to Rawlings-Blake.

Let’s remember how the scandal that brought down Mayor Sheila Dixon started: the mayor got too close to connected developer Ronald Lipscomb, who sprayed political contributions everywhere, plied her with gifts and eventually took her down. Bryant’s corporate connections far exceed Lipscomb’s. Will Bryant’s good fortune also be the good fortune of his clients?

But hey, this is Baltimore. The crab cakes are always good. The Orioles are almost always bad. And as for the politics, well… the more things change, the more they stay the same.