Dixon raises $195,254 for campaign

Political experts say she will invite competition in 2011 if she doesn't pick up pace

January 28, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon collected $195,254 for her campaign account last year, a total that included a $15,000 loan from her sister, campaign finance reports show.

The mayor's account is slightly larger then that of Martin O'Malley after his first full year as mayor, but political experts say it might not be large enough to scare away potential challengers, who could see her as weakened by her indictment this month on felony theft and other charges.

Dixon has $166,000 in available cash, while O'Malley had $125,000 at the end of 2000, a similar point in his mayoral tenure.

Other city officials have more money in the bank then Dixon. City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young - a vocal East Baltimore lawmaker - has $187,500. That makes his campaign account the largest among city officials who submitted reports by this month's deadline.

Young said he has interest in higher office, though not immediately. "All politicians do," he said.

Rachael Rice, a consultant for Dixon's campaign, said the mayor was "more focused on running the city" than fundraising last year. If she seeks re-election, Dixon would be on the ballot in 2011. "She has plenty of time," Rice said.

Dixon raised more than $1.2 million for her 2007 mayoral race.

Political experts said that Dixon will need to pick up the pace of her fundraising. O'Malley raised about $860,000 in his second year as mayor, and Dixon could find it difficult to keep pace.

She was indicted Jan. 9 on 12 counts, including stealing gift cards from needy families, failing to disclose gifts from developers on her ethics forms and misuse of office. She has said she is innocent of all the charges.

"Unless she plans to go all-out fundraising over the next couple years, she is going to invite competition, especially now," said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University.

Crenson said that the nature of some of the charges against Dixon - failing to report gifts from developers - might make it awkward to ask for money from that pool of donors traditionally willing to contribute to local races.

Also odd, Crenson said, was the $15,000 loan from Dixon's sister, Janice.

"Why would she need it now?" he said. "She is not up for election for another three years. I can't imagine why she would need loans from anybody."

Dixon's campaign declined to comment on the loan. "What you see in the report is a perfectly proper set of transactions that was fully reported," Rice said. A $332 interest charge related to the loan was reported as an in-kind donation from Janice Dixon to her sister's campaign.

The loan was made in early May and repaid in November. In March and April, the Dixon campaign spent about $34,000 - most of that on expenses for fundraising events and salaries. The campaign spent no money in May or June.

Janice Dixon's name has surfaced often in connection with the mayor. She was employed by City Hall when Sheila Dixon was council president. After ethics concerns were raised about council members hiring relatives, Dixon was forced to fire her sister in 2003.

Shortly afterward, Janice Dixon landed a job at Union Technologies - or Utech - a company that did electrical work. At a council committee hearing in early 2006, Sheila Dixon pressed lobbyists from Comcast, the city's cable franchise holder, to give more work to Utech. A series of articles in The Sun showed that Dixon voted three times on city contracts that benefited Utech.

The president of Utech, Mildred E. Boyer, was investigated by the state prosecutor's office as part of the wider City Hall probe that led to this month's indictments. In March, Boyer pleaded guilty to falsifying tax returns and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

CAMPAIGN SUMS

Fundraising by Baltimore officials in 2008:

* Mayor Sheila Dixon: raised $195,254; $166,000 in the bank

* City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt: raised $600; $152,000 in the bank

* City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake: raised: $109,000; $72,000 in the bank

* State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy: report not available because of technical problems

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