Donations to Robey questioned Cash from developers in weeks before vote draws late attention

He denies contradiction

Executive-elect says money won't affect decisions on growth

November 22, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Democratic Howard County Executive-elect James N. Robey, who promised during his campaign to moderate the pace of homebuilding in the fast-growing county, received more than $15,000 from the development community after the last deadline for public reporting of contributions before the Nov. 3 election.

Most of the development money -- at least $10,400 -- came from homebuilding interests, including developers, builders and sales agents, according to campaign finance data that Robey released Friday afternoon, several days before a post-election deadline for such disclosures. About $5,000 of those contributions came from people or entities connected to the 682-acre Waverly Woods II residential development project in northern Howard.

In all, Robey collected $38,800 -- nearly one-third of his $120,600 campaign total -- after Oct. 18, the last date when contributions had to be publicly reported before the general election. That money helped Robey mount a final advertising and mail campaign that at least rivaled, if not surpassed, that of his well-financed Republican opponent, Dennis R. Schrader.

K? The contributions from development interests are notable be

cause Robey had accepted very little money from such contributors earlier in the campaign. Robey had essentially matched Schrader's rhetoric on moderating the pace of homebuilding, and a disclosure that he had received substantial contributions from residential building interests could have raised questions about Robey's position on that issue.

Some say such questions are more pressing now, with the disclosure coming after the election.

"The voters now have to decide how candid has this candidate been," said Kathleen S. Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland. "When it appears that candidates are tied to certain interests and those interests are not disclosed until after the election, that's always a serious question."

Robey said the contributions do not change any promises he made about slowing the pace of homebuilding to ensure that adequate schools and roads are in place. He said most of the development money came from people who had supported Schrader's GOP primary opponent, Charles C. Feaga, and then had to choose between Schrader and him.

"I never said I would not take money from developers," Robey said. He noted that one Feaga supporter who met with him after the primary, homebuilder Harry "Chip" Lundy Jr., chose to back Schrader. Robey tapped Lundy after the election to be a member of his transition team.

Robey said he didn't ask any contributors to delay their checks until after the Oct. 18 pre-election reporting deadline, even though almost no major contributions from developers came in before that date.

"I can tell you this, that a couple of the contributors who were not developers intentionally waited until the last minute," Robey said. "But they were not developers."

One of the most generous supporters, Donald L. Reuwer, president of Land Design and Development Inc. in Columbia, said he didn't intentionally wait until Oct. 20, two days after the pre-election reporting deadline, to make a $1,000 contribution through one of his companies. His wife gave $1,000 a few days later.

"I don't even know about deadlines for disclosure," Reuwer said. "I found out that he needed some money to wage a successful campaign."

Reuwer said he supported Robey because he is a Democrat and he likes Robey's views, including his support for affordable housing for blue-collar workers -- which might translate into more homes being approved.

One of Reuwer's most important projects is the Waverly Woods II development north of Interstate 70 in northern Howard. He is managing the project for three developers who gave $2,000 to Robey through two of their companies. Another $1,000 check came from a relative of one of the developers.

Including the contributions from Reuwer and Reuwer's wife, $5,000 came from people connected to Waverly Woods II, which is scheduled to have more than 1,000 homes by 2010. The pace of building on that project could depend on Robey, who will appoint the county's top building regulators and will be instrumental in setting overall growth policy.

One of Schrader's top campaign advisers, Columbia pollster Brad Coker, noted that Robey has talked about slowing a large planned development in Fulton but has not said much about homebuilding in other areas.

"If you live on the I-70 corridor, look out, that's where it's going," Coker said with a laugh after hearing about the contributions. "It'll be interesting to see if, well, they'll slow it down a little bit in Fulton, they'll speed it up a bit in Waverly [Woods]." Robey bristled at that suggestion.

"I will tell you right now, I will do nothing to speed up development in Howard County. I think it's outrageous for the man to say that," Robey said.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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