Developers Help Silverman Dominate in Fundraising

By Miranda S. Spivack and Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Development industry money is helping power Steven A. Silverman's bid for Montgomery County executive, allowing him to open a wide fundraising advantage over Democratic primary opponent Isiah "Ike" Leggett, an analysis of campaign finance records shows.

In a county where congestion and the pace of growth are near the top of voters' concerns, Silverman, a County Council member since 1998, is seen as more pro-development by the industry. Silverman has many more large contributions than Leggett, and most appear to come from developers, builders, land-use lawyers and related businesses.

Since he began raising funds three years ago, Silverman has received at least 95 contributions of $3,000 or more.

At least 86 of those large contributors were people or companies associated with the development industry, and they gave at least $285,000, according to the review of campaign finance reports that were posted on a state Web site.

The total amount of money Silverman has collected from the industry is difficult to precisely determine because Maryland campaign finance laws do not require donors to disclose their occupations. The at-large council member has received at least 2,162 contributions, and The Washington Post reviewed the largest ones.

Leggett, who has been raising funds since early last year, has received at least 12 contributions of $3,000 or more, with at least half coming from development interests.

Overall, Silverman has raised about $1.9 million, a record for a Montgomery executive race; Leggett has raised about $770,000. The primary is Sept. 12.

The pace of development in Montgomery has emerged as a defining issue in a primary campaign in which the two leading candidates are seen by voters as holding similar positions on many other issues. A recent Post poll showed that the county's residents are more concerned about development than voters elsewhere in Maryland.

Leggett and Silverman both say they want to manage growth and congestion but offer different solutions. Leggett believes slowing construction would unclog roads. Silverman argues that the county should build more roads and mass transit, not fewer homes.

"Leggett has been seen as fairly pro-business and pro-growth throughout his career. But now he is positioning himself towards slowing things down," said Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Richard Parsons, a longtime Democratic operative. "Someone who says 'slow things down further' is not likely to get a lot of support from this particular industry."

Leggett, who served on the County Council from 1986 to 2002, said yesterday that Silverman had compromised his objectivity by accepting so many donations from the development industry.

"How can you bring people together . . . when half of the community will look at this and at least perceive there is no objectivity?" Leggett said.

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