Arundel Official Raises $500,000

Developers' big campaign donations to Executive John Leopold come as the county revises its construction policies.
Developers' big campaign donations to Executive John Leopold come as the county revises its construction policies. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, who ran for office in 2006 as the ultimate outsider, has raised a half-million dollars in campaign contributions in his first year, most of it from developers.

The contributions, more than he raised in the four years before his election, come as Leopold's administration conducts a once-in-a-decade revision of the county's general development plan, which will shape policy on big construction projects for years.

"Unfortunately, that is the system of politics we live in," Leopold (R) said yesterday. "Elections for an office like county executive require raising large sums. But there is no quid pro quo going on here."

The large contributions from developers have outraged community advocates.

"When you're an elected official and you take that much money from development, every time you make a decision, people are going to ask what influenced it," said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for the government watchdog group Common Cause.

A Washington Post analysis of campaign records released yesterday shows that more than 70 percent of the money can be traced to the development community and often to contributors who have projects pending before the county.

Leopold's contribution total, $504,325, is the highest that any Anne Arundel executive has received in a single year, records show.

State laws cap contributions from individual entities at $4,000, but some developers gave Leopold many times more than that by donating the maximum through the company's name, officers and limited liability companies.

Some community advocates worry that Leopold is getting so much development money because of the coming revision of the General Development Plan.

"Obviously, there's a concern when one sector is putting so much investment into a politician," said Ann Fligsten, president of the Arnold Preservation Council. She and others recently formed a group, the Growth Action Network, because they feared they would be shut out of the review process.

As a candidate, Leopold accused previous administrations of being overly friendly to business and promised "to drive a stake through the heart of the good old boy network and not let the developers continue to drive public policy."

As a state delegate, he refused to take contributions during the legislative session even though a legal exception permitted it.

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