Andrews defends contribution from lawyer-lobbyist who fights environmental regulation


File: Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews, center, hands a bumper sticker to Juana Vasquez, left. (Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)
February 20

In his campaign for Montgomery County executive, council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), combines calls for fiscal restraint and progressive reform. That includes holding the line on big pay raises in county labor contracts, partial public financing of local campaigns and environmental protection. He accepts no donations from real estate developers or union PACs.

“We need to fix our politics. We need to protect the environment. We need to be good stewards both fiscally and environmentally,” Andrews, who was endorsed by the Montgomery chapter of the Sierra Club in 2010, said at a candidates’ forum last week.

But in at least one instance, Andrews’ message doesn’t line up with his sources of money. His most recent campaign finance report shows $1,250 in contributions from Robert Steinwurtzel, a veteran lawyer and lobbyist for BakerHostetler whose clients are often pushing back against the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and environmental organizations.

In 2008, for example, Steinwurtzel represented the Association of Battery Recyclers in opposing new federal emissions standards for airborne lead. When Arkansas authorities revoked initial approval of Halliburton Energy Service’s plan for closing two wastewater ponds at its Magnet Cove chemical plant in 2011, Steinwurtzel negotiated a settlement for the company.

Steinwurtzel, a Bethesda resident, said in an e-mail this week that he has never lobbied at the county level. “I have supported Phil for years as I value his views on fiscal matters,” he said.

Prior finance reports — from 2010, 2012 and 2013 — show an additional $1,200 in donations.

Andrews said he knows Steinwurtzel only as a county resident who “wrote me expressing support for my positions on fiscal issues and making sure tax dollars are well spent.”

“He’s become a fan, I suppose.”

Andrews added that as long as Steinwurtzel conducted no county business, he saw no issue with accepting his money.

“He’s an individual who’s giving to make county government more fiscally responsive,” he said.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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