Charles Nulsen – chair of the developer-funded Progressives for Progress political action committee (PAC) that has spent more than a half a million dollars seeking to influence the outcome of next Tuesday’s Democratic primary – is also spreading his largesse to another like-minded super PAC.
Nulsen, president of Washington Property Co. – a Bethesda-based commercial real estate firm – this week donated $250,000 to the Affordable Maryland PAC, according to a filing Wednesday with the Maryland State Board of Elections. The Affordable Maryland PAC was founded less than a month ago with the stated intent of opposing the re-election of County Executive Marc Elrich to a second term.
Progressives for Progress PAC, founded by Nulsen at the end of April, has so far raised almost $600,000 from county development interests and spent more than $530,000 promoting a slate of candidates that it sees as sympathetic to its interests. This includes businessman David Blair, making his second run for the county executive post.
According to recent campaign disclosure reports, Nulsen’s Washington Property Co. has made a $50,000 donation to Progressives for Progress on top of the $250,000 he made this week as a personal donation to the Affordable Maryland PAC.
Nulsen’s contribution to the Affordable Maryland PAC surfaced just a day before the Progressives for Progress PAC that he chairs was sharply criticized by a group of current and former officials at an event in Silver Spring. Several speakers complained the glossy flyers being sent out by the group were misleading, and that the slate of executive and council candidates endorsed by Progressives for Progress lacked diversity.
The Affordable Maryland PAC, which lists an address in Takoma Park, has now exceeded Progressives for Progress in terms of money raised and spent. It is chaired by Adam Jentleson, formerly a top aide to the late U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada prior to Reid’s 2016 retirement.
Affordable Maryland PAC was initially funded late last month with $500,000 from Dustin Moskovitz, a billionaire co-founder of Facebook who resides in San Francisco. In addition to the $250,000 donated this week by Nulsen, two top officials of Bethesda-based construction firm Miller and Long – former chair John McMahon and vice chair Nicholas Paleologos – donated $100,000 each, according to filings Thursday with the State Board of Elections.
Also included in Thursday’s filing was a $20,000 contribution to the Affordable Maryland PAC by Guardian Realty Investments of Bethesda and $15,000 from Vienna, Va.-based Southern Management Cos.
All told, the Affordable Maryland PAC to date has taken in just under $1 million – $985,000 – and spent $696,000, all of it on media, including ads that urge “vote for affordability – vote against Marc Elrich.” The ads come late in a campaign during which housing affordability – and the adequacy of Elrich’s efforts to deal with it – have been a leading target for his Democratic opponents, Blair and at-large County Council member Hans Riemer.
Nulsen’s $250,000 contribution to the Affordable Maryland PAC is his latest move in an effort that began in 2015 when he founded Empower Montgomery, a so-called 501c4 group intended to enable the business community to play a greater role in Montgomery County politics.
Blair was initially listed as among the co-founders of Empower Montgomery, but – when he announced his first bid for county executive in 2017 – he contended that his role in the group had been overplayed, and his name was soon removed from the Empower Montgomery website.
After Blair lost the 2018 Democratic primary for county executive to Elrich by just 77 votes, Nulsen started a super PAC called “County Above Party” – which raised and spent nearly $570,000 in an unsuccessful effort to elect then-County Council Member Nancy Floreen, who had jumped into the general election race against Elrich as an independent candidate.
Nulsen’s latest political enterprise, Progressives for Progress PAC, has been promoting an informal slate of candidates that, in addition to Blair, includes several incumbent County Council members – at-large members Gabe Albornoz and Evan Glass as well as District 1 Council Member Andrew Friedson, District 3 Council Member Sidney Katz and District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker –the latter of whom is seeking to win election to an at-large seat.
Friedson is the only one of the above not to face opposition in his bid for another term. On Thursday, Glass sought to put political distance between himself and Progressives for Progress, charging in a statement following the event in Silver Spring: “The ‘Progressives for Progress’ slate does not reflect our racial diversity and the name is misleading.”
Also among the Progressives for Progress group of endorsed candidates are Marilyn Balcombe in District 2, Amy Ginsburg in District 4, Brian Anleu in District 5, Natali Fani-González in District 6 and Dawn Luedtke in District 7.
Louis Peck, a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.