Another day, and another glossy, oversized mailer showed up in my mailbox attacking State Senator Jim Brochin, a Democratic candidate for Baltimore County Executive. According to the polls, Mr. Brochin is the candidate most likely to defeat County Councilwoman Vicki Almond in the primary election. Ms. Almond is the standard bearer for the Baltimore County Democratic machine that has been faithfully serving the interests of builders and developers in the county for many years.
This latest attack ad was, like the first attack ad that I received, paid for by the “Baltimore County Victory Slate” (BCVS) controlled by former County Executive Jim Smith. The BCVS was the subject of a post that I wrote on Saturday.
The good news is that the BCVS is just about tapped out. The bad news is that developers, led by Caves Valley Partners, have turned to another pot of money for promoting Ms. Almond and for attacking Mr. Brochin and Johnny Olszewski, Jr., the other leading contender for the Democratic nomination.
Kris Henry reported in today’s Towson Flyer that in a single day last week a super PAC (political action committee) known as “Baltimore County Votes” received $30,100. [“Developers pour money into Almond super PAC, Almond ally attacks Brochin on guns,” June 18, 2018.] According to a later report in the Baltimore Sun, various entities related to Caves Valley Partners, including affiliates and executives, gave a combined $17,500 to the PAC last Thursday.
Caves Valley is the developer of the controversial project known as Towson Station and was the sole developer of Towson Row until Greenberg Gibbons took over as lead developer. The long-stalled Towson Row project was the recipient of a $43 million County bailout.
Baltimore County Votes got another $12,600 from other development-related firms on Thursday. The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), a teachers’ union, had also transferred $12,000 to the super PAC. Ms. Almond has been endorsed by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
The Sun also reported that the Baltimore County Votes PAC, after receiving the $30,100 on Thursday, spent nearly $32,000 on direct mail on Friday. We have not yet seen what that direct mailing looks like, but you can bet that it will include more attack ads.
The Towson Flyer reported that Baltimore County Votes was established last month to benefit Almond. The super PAC’s chairperson is attorney Kathleen Bustraan, a prominent Towson lawyer active in Democratic politics in Baltimore County.
The contributions made last week by Caves Valley Partners to Baltimore County Votes hardly were the first contributions made by Caves Valley to support Ms. Almond. Caves Valley Partners has contributed generously in the past to the campaign account of Ms. Almond, as have other developers, including Greenberg Gibbons, the current lead developer of Towson Row. It is Caves Valley Partners, however, that seems most eager to try to push Ms. Almond over the finish line in her campaign for County Executive.
Ms. Almond has expressed her irritation at being accused of being a central figure (if not the central figure, with the passing of former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz) in the pay-to-play culture in Baltimore County government:
“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 anymore,” Ms. Almond said at a recent debate. “I have to say that most people on this stage have taken money from developers, from community people, from special-interest groups, but it doesn’t mean you’re giving something back. It just means that 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.”
Right, Ms. Almond, you’re getting all this money from developers because they know you’re fair. As described by the Baltimore Sun editorial board, your denial of the pay-to-play culture in Towson is “mind boggling.” Fortunately, the voters of Baltimore County are not nearly as stupid as you take them to be.
Under current Maryland law, what Caves Valley Partners is doing is perfectly legal. It is up to a candidate for Baltimore County Executive to decide when a relationship with a developer that does business in the county is too cozy. If this relationship gets any cozier, Caves Valley Partners might just as well make Ms. Almond an Honorary Partner.