Opinion: Marc Elrich’s Developer Money

Opinion: Marc Elrich’s Developer Money

Campaign finance records disprove county executive candidate’s claim that he doesn’t take donations from developers, land-use attorneys

| Published:

Editor’s note: The views expressed in MoCo Politics are the writer’s and do not reflect those of Bethesda Beat staff. 

County Council member Nancy Floreen, who is running for county executive, has been excoriated by her opponents for openly accepting campaign contributions from developers.  In an earlier column, I estimated that nearly 80 percent of the money she received according to her August campaign finance report came from the real estate and construction industries. That is similar to her funding sources in the past. Council member and Democratic nominee Marc Elrich, on the other hand, has said that he has refused contributions from developers and their attorneys for his entire political career.  This statement from his October 2017 press release on public financing is typical:

Councilmember Elrich has never accepted donations from developers or land-use attorneys. “I believe it’s an absolute conflict of interest to take money from land-use attorneys and developers while deciding on their projects and zoning requests. So, again, I will not take that money in this election and have the public turn a land-use attorney’s $150 check into a $750 donation. To do otherwise would defeat the purpose of public financing as an antidote to special interests.”

 

In fact, Elrich has taken money from developers and attorneys who represent them for years. They are small amounts, especially compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Floreen and other politicians have accepted.  But they contradict his long-time assertions that he never takes their money.  Here are 13 contributions Elrich has taken since 2006 from three developers and four attorneys who represent developers that can be found in the State Board of Elections database.

Michael D. Rubin

Contributions to Elrich:

Oct. 9, 2009: $500 (through Breezy Hill Farm LLC)

May 12, 2010: $1,000

Sept. 17, 2018: $150

Mike Rubin has given $1,650 to Elrich over the last nine years, with the last contribution coming in September. Rubin is currently chairman of Epic Montgomery, an equestrian land protection organization, which describes him this way on its website:

Mike is founder, president and chief executive officer of Capitol Investment Associates Corporation, a company with assets exceeding $500 million and a portfolio of properties across the United States and in France. For more than a decade preceding his establishment of Capitol Investment Associates, Mr. Rubin engaged in numerous development and construction activities. He was a principal in the acquisition and redevelopment of many high profile Washington, D.C., area residential and commercial projects and directed the renovation and sale of more than 1,000 condominium and rental apartments.

Joshua B. Rales

Contributions to Elrich:

May 4, 2010: $500

Oct. 28, 2011: $500

Rales ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Maryland in 2006, self-funding $5.3 million. According to Our Campaigns, “In 1984, Rales founded RFI Associates, and over the last 21 years, he has built RFI into one of the leading investment companies in the area, specializing in acquiring, renovating, and overseeing real estate projects.” The Baltimore Sun referred to him as a “real estate developer” in 2003 and called his company a “real estate development firm” in 2006. The Washington Post called him a “Montgomery County real estate developer” in 2006 and the Gazette called him a “developer from Montgomery County” the same year.

Thomas Hoffmann

Contributions to Elrich:

Oct. 30, 2006: $1,000

Hoffmann is an attorney with Ballard Spahr LLP. who represents energy project developers, including those with renewable, nuclear and fossil projects.

Roger D. Winston

Contributions to Elrich:

July 16, 2010: $250

Winston is an attorney with Ballard Spahr LLP.  His website says:

Roger is widely regarded and sought out as one of the leading practitioners in mixed-use and condominium planning and development. He works with clients to provide insights and alternatives for ownership and control and for flexibility to structure projects that reflect seamless, efficient, and value-added integration of uses. His experience covers practically every property type and use. This includes retail, commercial, senior housing, residential, office, parking, hotel, and mixed-ownership projects and condominiums, and numerous other mixed-use variations.

David L. Winstead

Contributions to Elrich:

Nov. 17, 2013: $64

June 19, 2018: $150

Winstead is an attorney with Ballard Spahr LLP whose practice includes real estate development.  He was Maryland’s secretary of transportation during the administration of Gov. Parris Glendening.

Shelton Zuckerman

Contributions to Elrich:

June 9, 2010: $100

Zuckerman is president of Zuckerman Gravely Management in Chevy Chase.  His company’s real estate deals have been frequently chronicled in the Washington Business Journal. Manta.com categorizes the company under “commercial land subdividers and developers.” In 2009, The Washington Post described Zuckerman as “a longtime D.C. area developer.”

Jack Garson

Contributions to Elrich:

Oct. 22, 2009: $250

Oct. 28, 2011: $250

June 16, 2014: $250

Garson is an attorney whose clients have included developers. In 2014, The Washington Post asked Elrich about his contributions from Garson.  According to the article, which chronicled Elrich’s real estate contributions:

There are other smaller exceptions to Elrich’s “no developer” policy. For example, attorney Jack Garson, of Garson Claxton, a firm that represents developers, has given small amounts over the years.

Elrich calls Garson a friend from college who has “zip, zero influence.”

“He’s probably lost every case I’ve voted on,” he said.

Elrich’s reaction to getting caught by the Post accepting money from Garson is telling. He could have said it was a mistake to take it and he was sending the money back. (The money was not returned.)  Instead, he defended himself by alleging that Garson has “zip, zero influence” and that he “probably lost every case I’ve voted on.” That’s very different from saying he never takes money from developer attorneys.

Also of interest is that two of the above contributions—one from Rubin and one from Winstead—– came in 2018, during the county executive campaign. In direct contradiction to Elrich’s October 2017 press release, in which he said that he would not take development money and request public matching funds for it, his campaign in fact did request matching funds for both of them, according to the State Board of Elections records below. (Winstead’s home address is redacted to protect his privacy.  Rubin used a business address.)

 

No one would ever say that Elrich is a tool of developers. They are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into both Floreen’s campaign and a super PAC to defeat him. But rather than just being about money, this is a matter of what a candidate says about his own record.

If Marc Elrich had said that he takes very little developer money, he would be correct. If he said that he takes much less of it than his opponents, he would also be correct. But instead, he says that he has never taken any money from developers and their attorneys, which is not true. It was proven wrong by The Washington Post four years ago and is further refuted by the information above. It is time for him to stop making this claim.

Adam Pagnucco is a writer, researcher and consultant who is a former chief of staff at the County Council. He has worked in the labor movement and has had clients in labor, business and politics.

Back to Bethesda Beat >>

Leading Professionals »

Subscribe to our free newsletters

* indicates required

Dining Guide