I was at the coffee shop, wearing my Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez t-shirt (Made in the USA!) when a gent across the table asked me, “Are you from New York?”
Remembering my apparel choice, I looked up and replied, “Oh, no…I’m just a supporter of her campaign.”
He paused for moment. “Well,” he began, “I am not a fan of her politics…”
I quickly scanned my environment for something I could weaponize, for defensive purposes, just in case this chat went south in a hurry. The coffee was definitely not scalding. Not an option. My laptop mouse was wireless so I couldn’t use it as a garrote. My halberd was in the car. Guess it’s Krav Maga time…fascist blood, clean-up in aisle 3.
Wait, this coffee shop doesn’t have aisles. None of them do!
But he continued, “but I do like how she raises money from small donors. There is too much special interest money in politics.”
I nodded. The likelihood of fisticuffs breaking out seemed somewhat lower. “Yes, there is,” I responded, “and she definitely stands against the greater concentration of wealth in our society, so her campaign is ‘people-powered.’ It has to be.”
Although we probably had different definitions of "special interests," he indicated assent with my statement. But we both recognized that was the only common ground we would find on that topic. I went back to my emails and he to his reading.
This exchange, which happened three weeks ago, drifted back into my mind today. You see, I read about the $5,000 check that Raj Kathuria’s campaign received from a donor employed by Greenwood Hospitality, a company which “is engaged in the acquisition, repositioning, and management of full-service and select-service hotels.” Interesting. That single donation, which was received on 5/20/18, accounted for 58% of the Schedule 1 contributions that the Kathuria campaign received in that filing period (Pre-Primary 2 Gubernatorial, May 16, 2018 – June 10, 2018). It looks like the same donor (same name & address, but showing an occupation of “retired”) gave Kathuria’s campaign a total of $700 in three separate donations in an earlier campaign finance reporting period (as listed on the 1/10/2018 Annual Report).
This donor and Mr. Kathuria are the two resident agents named on the Articles of Incorporation for a Limited Liability Company whose stated purpose is to be a “Real Estate Holding Company.” And according to a letter that has been posted online, this company is seemingly looking to develop a plot of land right here in Howard County.
Now, many Republicans and Democrats have taken developer money to help fund their campaigns. That doesn’t necessarily make them stooges to those interests. Such donations, legal and properly reported, don’t in and of themselves present a prima facie case of corruption.
My position is apparently nuanced insofar as I don’t believe that all developers are evil, nor is all development bad. That said, if I were a candidate for County Council, I wouldn’t accept their contributions (note: I can’t imagine they would be that interested in cutting checks to such a campaign). And I wouldn't be trying to develop parcels while running for the Council.
My point is this: some voters care very deeply about this issue, and this includes Republican, Democratic, Unaffiliated, and other party voters. So if you live in County Council District One, and you want a candidate who doesn’t accept developer money, only one Council candidate fits that description: Liz Walsh.
Something to keep in mind as we approach Early Voting season…