Friday, March 1, 2024

Moore vacuumed up $4.6 million for inaugural festivities – Maryland Matters

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Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) with their spouses at their inaugural ball on Jan. 18. Photo by the Executive Offie of the Governor.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) raised almost $4.6 million for his inaugural celebration in January — close to three times as much money as his predecessor, former Gov. Larry Hogan (R), took in for his second-term inauguration four years earlier.

Donors included scores of prominent Maryland businesses and just as many from out of state: Real estate and construction firms, energy companies and utilities, health care entities, financial firms, lawyers, professional sports franchises, entertainment conglomerates and so much more.

The Moore-Miller Inaugural Committee spent more than $4.3 million on the festivities, with almost half of the expenditures going to a Boston-based political events company that also staged President Biden’s inauguration in 2021.

The committee retained $294,037.99 in its account as of March 1, according to records turned in to the Maryland State Board of Elections on Tuesday. The report of the inaugural committee’s financial activities runs a whopping 1,842 pages, similar to the substantial fundraising strength Moore displayed throughout the 2022 gubernatorial campaign, when collectively, he and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) raised more than $17 million.

Under a five-year-old state law, Moore is the second governor in Maryland history required to disclose the fundraising and expenditures associated with his inaugural celebration. Hogan was the first — and reported raising and spending $1,664,712.21 on his January 2019 inaugural.

Moore reported raising $4,595,727.95 and spending $4,301,689.06 for his inaugural festivities, which encompassed several events over a four-day period, capped by a boisterous inauguration night party, “The People’s Ball,” that drew more than 13,000 revelers to the Baltimore Convention Center.

The inaugural committees are not bound by standard state campaign finance rules limiting contributions to $6,000 per individual or entity, though Moore’s inaugural committee appeared to put a cap of $30,000 on contributions (Hogan’s report included two $100,000 donations). The new financial report shows 29 contributions of $30,000 — donors who were designated as “champions.” Donors of $15,000 or more were called “trailblazers,” while donations between $10,000 and $14,999 earned a “benefactor” designation. Contributors who gave between $5,000 and $9,999 were called “friends.”

In all, the inaugural committee showed $2,897,076.87 in contributions from individuals, corporations and labor unions, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in donations from political action committees and candidate accounts. The report also showed $1,387,948.34 in revenues from tickets sold for the inaugural ball.

The $30,000 donors, as listed on the inaugural committee’s report, are:

  • Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Anvil 1 LLC, a Virgin Islands economic development agency
  • Baltimore Gas & Electric
  • Capital One Services
  • CareFirst
  • Comcast Financial Agency Corp.
  • Constellation Energy Generating LLC
  • Nicholas Cortezi, chair of Ryan Specialty Underwriting Managers
  • Robyn Cummings Cole of TRATE Properties in Kiawah Island, S.C.
  • Joseph DeFrancis, the former executive of the Maryland Jockey Club
  • Deepwater Wind Block Island LLC, part of the same corporate family that is seeking to set up an offshore wind operation off the coast of Ocean City
  • Exelon Corp.
  • Farmers Employee & Agent PAC
  • Halmar International LLC, a construction company in Nanuet, N.Y.
  • Infinite Computer Solutions Inc., of Rockville
  • Labor Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition
  • Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee
  • MSEA’s Fund for Children and Public Education PAC, affiliated with the state teachers’ union
  • Murphy, Falcon and Murphy, the Baltimore law firm
  • Oak View Group LLC, a sports, live entertainment and hospitality firm in Los Angeles
  • Charles Phillips, co-chair of the Black Economic Alliance
  • Professional Maintenance Systems Inc.
  • Kimberly Richardson, a Potomac homemaker whose husband owns a private equity firm
  • SKG Contracting Inc., Baltimore
  • The McCormick Co.
  • The Northwest Maglev LLC
  • The Williams Companies Inc., a Washington, D.C., energy company
  • United Health Services Inc.
  • Venable LLP, the powerhouse law firm

But there are hundreds of other noteworthy contributions listed in the inaugural committee’s report, from celebrities to Maryland business titans, from multinational corporations to political practitioners who have struck it rich.

The celebrity list is headed by basketball star Kevin Durant, who grew up in Prince George’s County and donated $10,000. Also donating from the sports world: The Baltimore Orioles ($15,000), the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network ($15,000), the Baltimore Ravens ($10,000), the Washington Commanders ($10,000), former Maryland congressman and retired NBA star Tom McMillen ($5,000), and Ted Lerner and Mark Lerner, the majority owners of the Washington Nationals ($2,500 each). Ted Lerner recently died at the age of 97.

On the entertainment front, the Moore report shows donations from Tonya Lewis Lee, a film producer and wife of iconic director Spike Lee ($10,000); Crystal McCrary, a producer and director ($10,000); Broderick Johnson, an executive Vice President at Comcast ($10,000); and Marva Smalls, an executive at Paramount ($5,000).

Noteworthy contributors from the business world include Caves Valley Partners, the Baltimore County-based development firm ($25,000); Verizon ($20,000); CSX Transportation ($15,000); developer Ron Lipscomb ($15,000); United Airlines ($15,000); US Wind ($15,000); Washington Gas ($15,000); and Paul Touradji, a Florida-based hedge fund manager once described by The New York Post as “ruthless” ($15,000).

Transurban USA, which was selected by the Hogan administration to operate toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 as part of a lane-widening project, also donated $15,000 — though Moore has yet to say whether he’s going to green-light that deal. Fraport Maryland Inc., which recently sued the state in an effort to hold on to its lucrative concessions contract at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, donated $10,000. HMS Host, another company in the airport concessions business, contributed $15,000.

The state’s two biggest hospital operators, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical System, each donated $15,000. The Hospital Association of Maryland chipped in the same amount.

Well over 1,600 pages in the inaugural committee’s report detail the people who bought tickets for the event at the convention center. The first 2,000 ticket-buyers were able to procure tickets for $50; the price was later bumped up to $125.

“Wes and [his wife] Dawn really wanted to make clear that they didn’t want cost to be a barrier to attending,” said Connor Lounsbury, a spokesperson for the Moore campaign and inaugural committee.

Other ticket-buyers paid $1,000 to attend a smaller, pre-inaugural reception.

The new finance report also details the inaugural committee’s spending. Of the more than $4.3 million that went out the door, the largest expenditure — $1,933,235.04 — went to a Boston-based company called RoseMark Production LLC. Owned by Rose Staram, who got her start in politics working for former President Obama’s reelection, the company specializes in staging political and philanthropic events, including President Biden’s inauguration. Staram also received a separate $30,000 payment, the report shows.

The inaugural committee’s report also shows an $880,255.79 payment for the rental of the convention center. And it reveals hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for airline travel, hotel accommodations in Annapolis and Baltimore, limousine and other transportation services, and payments to travel agents. Hundreds of thousands more went to pay for production and sound vendors, catering firms, entertainers and DJs, security, and hair and makeup services.

Lounsbury said most of the hotel payments were for out-of-town entertainers who performed at the inaugural ball, and for members of Moore’s family and close family friends. He said much of the transportation payments were for buses to bring people to the governor’s swearing-in ceremony in Annapolis on the morning of Jan. 18.

It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday evening when the Moore-Miller Inaugural Committee will close its books or what might happen with the money still in the treasury.

When Hogan closed the books on his inaugural activities four years ago, his committee had a surplus of $216,850.73, so he spread that amount out to seven charities. The biggest recipient, receiving $83,400.73, was Yumi CARES, the foundation launched by then-first lady Yumi Hogan to offer art therapy to cancer patients.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated with more information about ticket prices for the inaugural ball and with more details about the inaugural committee’s expenditures.

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