Berliner Outpaces Montgomery County Executive Field in Fundraising

Berliner Outpaces Montgomery County Executive Field in Fundraising

Blair reports second most cash on hand; Elrich not far behind

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County Council member Roger Berliner, top left, raised more funds for his county executive campaign over the previous year than his competitors, from top middle to bottom right, David Blair, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow

County Council member Roger Berliner reported the highest fundraising totals over the past year of the six Democrats running for Montgomery County executive, according to campaign finance reports filed Wednesday.

Berliner raised $550,000 from 544 contributors since last January. He also has the most cash on hand in the race, with $483,000, after spending about $68,000 on his campaign over the previous year.

His fundraising outpaced his fellow council colleagues, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, as well as Potomac health care executive David Blair and Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda)—other Democrats running for the party’s nomination in the June 26 primary.

The sixth Democrat in the race, former county planning department deputy director Rose Krasnow, did not file her 2018 campaign finance report as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The former Rockville mayor was the most recent candidate to announce plans to run for the office, formally kicking off her campaign in December.

Krasnow said Thursday morning her campaign was having technical difficulties uploading her report, but estimated that she raised about $39,000 since kicking off her campaign.

Blair, the former CEO of Catalyst Health Solutions, reported having $351,000 in cash after raising $503,000 since creating his campaign account in late October—the second highest total in the race. The campaign spent about $151,000 over the past three months.

Blair contributed $300,000 of his own money to his campaign and received an additional $18,000 from family members, according to the filing. Blair made about $16 million after Catalyst, the prescription drugs benefits company he launched with his father in 1998, sold for about $4.4 billion in 2012.

Elrich raised about $80,000 in donations of $150 or less. That amount was matched with about $316,000 from the county’s public election campaign fund. He has $314,000 cash on hand after expenses of $85,500 since opening his campaign account in late February.

Leventhal reported having $180,000 in cash on hand after raising about $68,000 in eligible public contributions and receiving about $280,000 in public funds as of Jan. 10. His campaign has taken in more than $350,000, but spent about $175,000 since late September 2016, when he first opened his public financing account.

Frick’s report showed he has $155,000 cash on hand after receiving $191,000 contributions over the past year. He also had $45,000 in his campaign account to begin the year, but spent about $80,700.

Chart created by Bethesda Beat

Leventhal, Elrich and Krasnow have chosen to use the county’s new public campaign financing system for this election.

To qualify, candidates agree to accept contributions of $150 or less from individuals. They can’t take any money from corporations, PACs, unions or political parties. Contributions of $150 or less from county residents are matched with multiple amounts of county funds under the system. For example, a $100 donation is matched by a multiple of five, giving a candidate $600.

The county budgeted $11 million in funds for publicly financed candidates in this election cycle. County Council candidates also can choose to use the system.

To begin receiving public funds, a county executive candidate must raise at least $40,000 in qualifying individual contributions. Elrich and Leventhal have hit that threshold. Krasnow said she believes she’ll hit the threshold to qualify soon.

County executive candidates can receive a maximum of $750,000 in matching county funds during the primary election cycle. Candidates can continue fundraising if they reach this total, but the individual contributions of $150 or less they receive will no longer be matched by the county. Contributions from individuals who live outside the county are not eligible for matching funds.

Boyds attorney Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate in local races and the only Republican running for county executive, reported raising $34,000 since opening his public financing account in February. He spent about $12,700, leaving him with $21,300 cash on hand.

He has not yet hit the $40,000 threshold to begin receiving matching public funds under the system.

Candidates use campaign funds on television and digital media ads, as well as campaign fliers, mailers and yard signs. They also use the money to pay staff members and cover ongoing campaign expenses such as for food and equipment.

Berliner, Blair and Frick are using the traditional campaign financing system in Maryland that enables candidates to accept individual contributions up to $6,000, as well as money from groups such as labor organizations and businesses.

Berliner’s $483,000 in cash on hand is less than the $971,000 then two-term incumbent County Executive Ike Leggett had in his campaign fund in January 2014. That was six months before he defeated former County Executive Doug Duncan and former Council member Phil Andrews in a three-way Democratic primary. Duncan reported $331,000, while Andrews had $116,500 at the time.

Leggett must step down from the position due to term limits approved by voters in 2016. Berliner, Elrich and Leventhal are all term-limited, as well, because they will have served three or more terms on the council by the end of 2018.

Leventhal, an at-large member, was first elected to the council in 2002. Elrich, also an at-large member, and Berliner were first elected to the council in 2006.

Berliner, whose Council District 1 includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac, tapped into the county’s development industry for a significant portion of his cash.

For example, he received:

  • more than $15,000 from leaders of Willco Residential, a Bethesda developer
  • $6,000 from Advisors LLC, a Bethesda-based development consultant
  • $6,000 from Federal Realty Investment Trust, the developer of Bethesda Row and Pike & Rose $6,000 from Robert Moser, a Clark Construction executive
  • $4,000 from executives at JBG Smith
  • $7,000 from members of the Landow family of Bethesda-based developer Landow & Co.
  • $2,500 from Carr Properties
  • more than $5,500 from members of the Abramson family that owns Tower Cos.
  • $4,000 from Lerner Enterprises executives, including a $2,000 contribution from Ted Lerner, the owner of the Washington Nationals.

Blair, a part owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards and Capitals, tapped other partners of the sports business for campaign contributions.

Raul Fernandez, vice chairman of Monumental, and his wife, Jean-Marie Fernandez, contributed $6,000 each to Blair’s campaign.

Other contributors were:

  • Monumental partner Scott Brickman’s wife Patrice Brickman, $6,000.
  • Partner Richard Kay, $6,000.
  • Partner Cliff White, $6,000.
  • Neil Cohen, also a partner, $1,500.
  • John “Jack” Davies, another partner, $2,000.
  • Partner Roger Mody, $2,700
  • Earl Stafford, another partner, $2,500.

Frick, an attorney at the D.C. law firm Akin Gump and the House majority leader, received many contributions from members of the regional legal industry—including at least $6,500 from Akin Gump workers. He also received $6,000 from Raul Fernandez, of Monumental Sports, and $6,000 each from Robert Trone and his wife Anna Parisi-Trone.

Trone is co-owner of Bethesda-based Total Wine & More. Frick held a fundraiser this month at Trone’s Potomac home.

UPDATE – Jan. 23, 2 p.m. – Krasnow formally filed her campaign finance report with the state's Board of Elections on Jan. 19. It notes she raised $38,900 since creating her campaign account on Nov. 3. He campaign also spent about $9,700 leaving her with approximately $29,100 in cash on hand.

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