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Government & Politics

Developers Stoke Pro-Almond Super PAC in Baltimore County

Tens of thousands of dollars from Baltimore County developers quietly poured into a Super PAC to benefit Vicki L. Almond late last week, allowing mailings for her county executive bid to be sent to voters in the final week of the campaign.

More than half of the $30,000 given to Baltimore County Votes PAC by developers —$18,000 — was contributed by Caves Valley Partners, a politically well-connected Towson-based concern, or by limited liability companies (LLCs) controlled by the firm.

Arthur H. Adler, Steven J. Sibel and Arsh Mirmiran, three partners in Caves Valley, each contributed $2,100, according to a report filed electronically on Sunday with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Entities affiliated with Larry Boltansky, a Stevenson developer whose LLCs have partnered with Caves Valley in various joint ventures, contributed another $2,000, the report showed.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond. Photo by William F. Zorzi.

Southern Utility Construction Inc., a contracting company linked to Southern Land Company Inc., contributed $5,000, as did Halp Development Corp., which is affiliated with Howard L. Perlow, a title company principal, the report showed.

A Maryland State Education Association political action committee kicked in another $12,000 to Baltimore County Votes, the independent expenditure political action committee established for Almond in May, bringing the last-minute contributions to $42,100, the report showed.

The new filing by Baltimore County Votes PAC was first reported Monday by The Towson Flyer.

Both of Almond’s opponents in the June 26 Democratic primary election for Baltimore County Executive, state Sen. James Brochin and former Del. John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr., have criticized the county councilwoman’s coziness with developers, as well as the county’s reputation for “pay-to-play” politics that cater to “special interests.”

Caves Valley Partners is the developer of two controversial sites in Towson, one a planned unit development proposed at York Road and Bosley Avenue, and the other at York Road and Burke Avenue, the so-called Towson Row project, which had stalled until another developer, Greenberg Gibbons of Owings Mills, agreed to a partnership with them.

“There is not a pay-to-play system, and I do not like that term, and it is just not a term that is something that I will put up with any more,” Almond said at a recent candidates’ forum.

She said accepting campaign contributions from developers “doesn’t mean you’re giving something back,” but rather, “it just means they want to see you elected to the office, because they know you’re fair, because they know you will work with them, communicate with them.”

“It’s all about those relationships and those partnerships,” Almond said at the televised forum.

Unlike traditional political action committees, Super PACs may accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals, but those entities are considered “independent expenditure” committees, meaning their activities cannot be coordinated with any candidate’s campaign committee.

In the case of Baltimore County Votes, the Almond campaign is not allowed by law to know what the Super PAC is doing to support her, which could include advertisements on television, radio and social media or even get-out-the-vote efforts.

The report filed Sunday shows that on Friday the Super PAC wired $31,911.92 to Greenlight Media Strategies in Nashville, Tenn., for mailing services. It is unclear what kind of mailers would be sent out or which of her opponents would be targeted.

Organizers of Baltimore County Votes filed an affidavit with the Maryland State Board of Elections stating that it did not intend to receive or spend more than $1,000 in contributions through June 10, the end of the last campaign finance reporting period.

The affidavit, signed by Kathleen M. Bustraan, a Towson lawyer who chairs the committee, and Jodi L. Schwartz, the treasurer, was dated June 14 — the same date that the developer contributions and $12,000 MSEA PAC transfer were entered in the Almond Super PAC account

Bustraan, secretary of the Towson-based Central Baltimore County Democratic Club (CBCDC), contributed $100 to the Super PAC, the report showed.

Paperwork creating Baltimore County Votes was filed at the Maryland State Board of Elections in Annapolis on May 17, two days after the state’s last campaign finance reporting deadline.

Almond’s campaign was helped directly on June 6 by a $20,000 transfer to Friends of Vicki Almond from the Baltimore County Victory Slate, controlled by James T. Smith Jr., former two-term Baltimore County executive, now “chief of strategic alliances” for Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D).

The most recent campaign finance reports, for the period of May 15 to June 10, show that Almond had the most cash on hand of the three main Democratic candidates for county executive, with $241,708.23. She spent $578,518.31, mostly for television advertising, in the period, the report filed Friday showed.

By contrast, Brochin, a four-term state senator, had only $37,360.61 left on hand — after personally lending his campaign $95,000 on June 4, the campaign finance report showed.

Olszewski, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, had $218,683.63 on hand, his campaign report showed. That, after spending $358,602.76 in the last period.

A Baltimore Sun-University of Baltimore poll released last week showed Brochin favored by 30 percent of voters surveyed, compared to 22 percent for Almond and 14 percent for Olszewski, with 31 percent undecided.

Some observers have questioned those poll results, given the small sample size of 400 likely Democratic primary voters, saying that the race is likely much tighter than that.

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Developers Stoke Pro-Almond Super PAC in Baltimore County