PAC Forms To Point Out Floreen’s Contributions from Developers

PAC Forms To Point Out Floreen’s Contributions from Developers

Chairman says purpose is to provide transparency to voters on county executive candidates’ funders

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Nancy Floreen

File photo

A political action committee has formed that targets Nancy Floreen’s independent campaign for Montgomery County executive, alleging that 90 percent of her campaign contributions have come from developers.

The PAC, known as Montgomery Neighbors PAC, was created on Sept. 18 by Drew Powell – a Rockville activist who ran unsuccessfully to be the city’s mayor in 2007. Powell  led a similar PAC, called Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, in the 2002 and 2006 county elections.

Powell said in an interview Sunday that Montgomery Neighbors is not associated with any specific campaign. “What we’re really trying to do here is point out the issue with large donations from special interest groups in Montgomery County politics,” he said. “In this case it’s Ms. Floreen that’s accepting 90 percent of her campaign money from the development industry … . We are acting as an information portal for voters so that they can see the contributions to various campaigns.”

The Montgomery Neighbor’s website is strongly critical of Floreen. The website lists several reasons “why voters should say “NO!” to 90% Nancy,” along with a photo of a traffic jam on the Beltway. The page notes Floreen’s opposition to bus rapid transit; her support of the Intercounty Connector, a controversial highway between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties; and efforts to reduce fees that developers pay to help pay for public infrastructure.

The website also accuses Floreen of “demonizing” Elrich, and reminds residents that she “ditched the primary election” by not running in the Democratic race.

Powell said his PAC is starting to raise money in the form of small donations of $50 or less, which will be used to fund mailers and other forms of electronic communication aimed at letting voters know where each candidate’s donations are coming from. Powell declined to say how much the PAC had raised so far.

Floreen, an outgoing member of the County Council, entered the county executive race in July after fellow council member Marc Elrich won a six-way Democratic primary on June 26. Floreen, formerly a Democrat, shed her party affiliation and received enough petition signatures for her independent candidacy to be certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections in August.

Elrich and Republican opponent Robin Ficker are using the county’s new public financing system, which allows candidates to receive matching public funds if they only accept contributions from individuals of $150 or less and don’t take money from PACs, corporations or unions. Floreen was not eligible for public funding because she began her campaign after the deadline for participation in the program.

Powell lamented The Washington Post’s recent endorsement of Floreen, noting that the paper did not give enough weight to her developer contributions. He said he hopes his PAC will raise awareness that candidates can become beholden to special interests by accepting money from developers and large companies.

“If voters are comfortable with that, fine. If they’re not comfortable with the fact that Ms. Floreen is taking that amount of funding from the development industry, then they can vote accordingly,” he said.

Floreen had raised just over $342,000 through Aug. 28, with Elrich having raised more than $100,000 through Sept. 17 and Ficker more than $233,000 through Aug. 28, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Developer Charles K. Nulsen III created a super PAC on Aug. 29 called County Above Party that had raised more than $155,000 as of Sept. 21 in support of Floreen’s candidacy.

Ficker said in an interview that he hadn’t heard of the PAC and thinks it will help Elrich in the race.

“This Neighbors PAC hasn’t contacted me; it doesn’t sound like they’re supporting her [Floreen],” he said. “I think they’re going to be supporting someone … . Someone is gonna benefit from what they do, and you’re not supposed to benefit from PAC contributions if you’re taking public financing. You can’t have it both ways.”

Neither Floreen or Elrich could be reached for comment Sunday.

This story will be updated.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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