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Election 2022

Developers’ Super PAC Supporting a Slate of Candidates in Prince George’s

The Prince George’s County administration building in Upper Marlboro. Prince George’s County photo.

Political mailers are landing in Prince George’s County voters’ mailboxes that come from a new Super PAC with an innocuous, aspirational-sounding name: Jobs 1st PAC.

But the mailers, supporting an array of Democratic candidates for county council, are being paid for by developers and business leaders.

Developers are prevented from making direct contributions to Prince George’s County councilmembers.

So far, according to filings with the Maryland State Board of Elections, the Jobs 1st PAC has raised about $90,000 and spent about $66,000, on mailings and polling. The biggest donors — at $25,000 each — are developers with huge holdings in suburban Maryland: Enterprise Office Park Inc., a company owned by William Chesley, a five-decade real estate powerhouse, and Edward St. John, head of St. John Properties.

But the genesis of the PAC isn’t altogether clear. Two employees of the Maryland Democratic fundraising firm, Rice Consulting LLC, are listed on the PAC’s registration form as the chair and treasurer of the PAC, respectively. The chair, Laurie Scannell, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The PAC’s registration form, filed with the board of elections on June 22, said it is working to support several incumbent council members seeking reelection: Edward Burroughs, Tom Dernoga, Mel Franklin, Sydney Harrison, Calvin Hawkins, Jolene Ivey and Rodney Streeter.

It is also supporting a few candidates for open seats: Wanika Fisher, Ingrid Harrison, Barbara Holt Streeter, and Eve Shuman. The PAC additionally said it is supporting former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the gubernatorial race — even though Baker suspended his campaign a few weeks ago.

The PAC’s decision to back Dernoga is puzzling: Dernoga has largely clashed with developers during his dozen non-consecutive years on the council — and was the target of developer attacks during his 2018 campaign. Late last week, he sent an email to supporters with the subject line “Not My Super PAC!”

“Super PACs are one way developers circumvent the State law prohibiting developer campaign contributions to County Council candidates,” Dernoga wrote.

“This mailer is intended to confuse voters,” he added, accusing the developers of being in cahoots with Franklin and Hawkins. Dernoga is running unopposed this year, and he suggested that the PAC added him to its endorsement list “to use me as a tool to prop up their favored candidates.”