O'Malley campaign raises $860,000

Large donations tied to growth plans for city, report shows

November 16, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Though he may have his eye on the governor's office in Annapolis - he isn't saying yet - Mayor Martin O'Malley is still raising substantial sums from the traditional supporters with interests at City Hall, according to recent campaign reports.

O'Malley received more than 2,000 contributions in raising about $860,000 since last November, though two-thirds of the money was from about 450 contributors of $1,000 or more. Dozens of the largest contributors - developers, contractors, large property owners and big local companies - have past or present business ties to City Hall.

One of those is CitiFinancial Corp., the Baltimore-based lending firm that, with the backing of the O'Malley administration, appears to be on the verge of getting as many as 275 parking spaces, possibly below market rate, of a 519-space garage to be built with city and state funds.

With the company's promise of expansion, the city also approved in August a $1 million low-interest loan for the company to renovate its 300 St. Paul St. headquarters.

CitiFinancial, its president and two political action committees of CitiGroup Inc., the parent company of CitiFinancial, gave a total of $9,000 to O'Malley in contributions recorded in May.

Such business contributions are the staple of political campaigns across the nation. But the CitiFinancial money is also ready ammunition for critics of the administration and CitiFinancial, a company that some activists allege has profited off the poor.

O'Malley said in an interview that CitiFinancial's contribution played no part in his support of the city-financed garage.

"I think you're going to see CitiFinancial more involved in the life of the city on many levels," O'Malley said, noting the company's planned expansion. "I'm really glad that they are increasing their presence here in the city of Baltimore."

CitiGroup spokeswoman Maria Mendler said the $9,000 in contributions is unrelated to CitiFinancial's business interests with city government.

"We're a company that has been headquartered in Baltimore for quite a while, and we have the responsibility to participate in the political process," Mendler said. "The campaign contributions and contributions to other officials are part of our doing business."

Other major contributors were members of a Houston family - Andrew, Raquel and Justin Segal - who gave a combined $10,000. Andrew Segal's company, Boxer Property, owns a number of office buildings downtown.

The Segals and CitiFinancial are among the most generous in a long list of O'Malley contributors doing business with city government. After a quiet first year with little fund raising, O'Malley started asking for money in his second year and found no shortage of business leaders willing to help. Experts who watch campaign fund raising say the contributors have a transparent motive.

"The people who are reaching into their pockets and writing checks for $4,000 tend to have very good reasons for doing so, and often these are direct economic reasons," said Larry Makinson, senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. "They're either hoping to get something or already have gotten something."

Other contributors to O'Malley include:

A political action committee of Pennrose Properties of Philadelphia, which gave $5,000 in a contribution recorded in May. Pennrose has had several projects with the city and earlier this year secured a $1 million commitment from the city to help renovate a 47-unit apartment building on Druid Park Lake Drive.

Arthur B. Modell, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, who gave $4,000 in a contribution recorded in August. The Ravens are negotiating with the city on the renewal of the team's $1-per-year lease of its practice facility in Baltimore County.

Federal Hill Development, the developers of the proposed Ritz Hotel project on Key Highway, which gave $2,500. The project has drawn criticism from labor unions and some area residents.

Other major contributors with city business include Doracon Contracting, which gave $2,000. Doracon President Ronald Libscomb and his wife donated $1,000 apiece in April. Frankford Towing, one of two major city towing operators with substantial city-generated income, gave $1,500 in April. Demolition contractor Randolph Phipps gave $1,000 in April.

Most of the largest donations came in connection with O'Malley's April 25 fund-raiser at PSINet Stadium, where tickets were sold for $250 and $1,000 apiece.

O'Malley's campaign has about $777,000 on hand.

Sun researcher Shelia Jackson contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.