WASHINGTON – Some of Maryland’s biggest names in sports, business and publishing are also some of the biggest donors to political candidates and causes.
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, philanthropists Harvey and Robert Meyerhoff, Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin, Washingtonian publisher Philip Merrill and Eastern Shore chicken magnet Frank Perdue are among the state’s biggest contributors to federal campaigns, records show.
Although the list is dominated by men, the state’s No. 1 contributor is neither one of the boys nor a well-known Marylander.
Cynthia Friedman, a Democratic activist from Chevy Chase, leads her more famous peers in donations to federal candidates, parties and causes – giving more than $162,000 since 1995, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The Meyerhoffs, better known for giving to charities, have donated more than $100,000 each to political campaigns. But Harvey Meyerhoff, second on the state’s federal contribution list, is a die-hard Republican while his cousin, the state’s sixth biggest donor, is a Democratic booster.
Merrill, who owns The Annapolis Capital as well as the Washingtonian, prefers Republicans. His $128,000 in donations made him Maryland’s third-biggest political contributor in the past 2 1/2 years.
Angelos (No. 5) and Pollin (No. 7) are heavy hitters as owners of major league sports franchises and big Democratic contributors, giving about $100,000 each since 1995.
Perdue, who starred in his own television commercials, counts the National Broiler Council among his favorite political causes. He was 18th with $34,740 in donations.
Lesser-known but big-time contributors include Bethesda attorney William Dockser, No. 4 with $122,000 in donations, and Baltimore businessman William Runyon, No. 8 with $89,250.
The donors’ big checks often come with big expectations, said Bill Hogan, director of investigative projects for the Center for Public Integrity, a government watchdog group.
“When the money creeps up there … big donors give to get access,” Hogan said.
Access can range from having your picture taken with a senator to having conversations with the president.
Half of the primarily Democratic contributors on Maryland’s top 10 list have been to at least one of the now-infamous White House coffees with President Clinton.
“Access gives somebody a chance to make their case that an ordinary constituent may not,” said Paul Hendrie, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
The following are brief profiles of Maryland’s top dozen individual donors to federal elections over the last 2 1/2 years. Some names are well known to Marylanders while others are household names only in the kitchens of the state’s political elite.Cynthia Friedman, Democratic Fund-raiser, $162,690
Cynthia Friedman has been Maryland’s top federal contributor over the last 2 1/2 years.
“I contribute because I can help out from time to time,” Friedman said after a downtown fund-raiser Wednesday night that doubled as a birthday party for Hillary Clinton.
Friedman has helped out with $162,690 to political causes, all Democratic, since 1995.
During the first part of the celebration, she stood at the first lady’s shoulder as Clinton was toasted by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
On Federal Election Commission documents, Friedman has listed her occupation alternately as homemaker, retired and executive for Union Real Estate Corp. However, her most prominent role is that of chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum.
Friedman said her organization is trying to reach out and mobilize women as a political force. “Women are just learning how to open up their own checkbooks,” she said.
Friedman has attended White House coffees hosted by Tipper Gore and the president.Harvey Meyerhoff, $128,850, and Robert Meyerhoff, $101,000; Philanthropists
Relatives don’t always see eye to eye on politics, and cousins Harvey and Robert Meyerhoff are no exception.
Harvey Meyerhoff, who runs a Baltimore real estate development company, is a major Republican booster, giving $128,850 to GOP candidates and causes, including 1996 Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole.
Robert Meyerhoff of Cockeysville, who owns race horses, backs Democratic causes. His $100,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee last year caused a stir when Senate Republicans alleged he made the gift after Clinton called him from the Oval Office.
The Meyerhoffs are best known as wealthy philanthropists.
Harvey Meyerhoff’s beneficiaries have included the Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and cultural projects in Israel.
Robert Meyerhoff’s latest philanthropic project is the loan of the massive Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection to the National Gallery of Art.
Neither returned repeated telephone calls.Philip Merrill, Publisher, $128,000
Phil Merrill of Arnold is the publisher of Washingtonian magazine, a 160,000-circulation magazine, and the Annapolis Capital, a 46,000-circulation daily newspaper that covers Anne Arundel County.
Merrill’s $128,000 in contributions went exclusively to Republicans such as Sen. John Warner of Virginia, 1996 Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp and the Republican National Committee.
Merrill did not return repeated telephone calls.William Dockser, Lawyer, $122,000
When asked about his political donations, William Dockser brings up the subject of campaign finance reform on his own.
“I would truly be pleased to see some (campaign finance) reform,” Dockser said.
The Bethesda lawyer and real estate investor said he’s been active in politics since he was a Harvard University roommate of 1988 Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis.
During the 1995-96 election cycle, Dockser’s political contributions went almost exclusively to the Democratic National Committee.
He attended White House coffees with Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.Peter Angelos, Lawyer/Sports Owner, $107,000
Peter Angelos, the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, has given exclusively to Democrats with the exception of Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.
Angelos has given to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the Clinton-Gore campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the South Carolina Democratic Party.
He did not return repeated telephone calls.
Abe Pollin, Sports Owner, $96,000
While Abe Pollin is moving his teams, the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals, back into the District from Landover, his support for the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to be budging.
Recipients of Pollin contributions include Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Prince George’s, the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Pollin also gave to a Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
He did not return repeated telephone calls.William Runyon, Businessman, $89,250
William “Willie” Runyon is a self-described “strong Democrat,” and his pattern of political donations shows it. The owner of American Ambulance and Oxygen Co., a Baltimore-based service and equipment provider, donated $89,250 to various Democratic causes.
Asked why he makes political contributions, the cantankerous West Virginia native replied, “I don’t get nothing from it except good government.”
He added that there is little politicians could do to help him anyway. “I don’t need anything,” he said. “In our business, they can’t help us.”
However, a chunk of his company’s business comes from state and federal money.
Runyon’s company is in the medical field, which is heavily regulated at the state and local levels, and has felt the sting of government oversight.
In April, American Ambulance paid $1.48 million to settle claims it improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid for ambulance services.
He has contributed to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., the Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the Clinton-Gore campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
Runyon has had coffee with Clinton in the Map Room of the White House.Nathan Landow, Real Estate Investor/Fund-raiser, $86,250
Nathan Landow is a Bethesda real estate developer, former state Democratic Party chairman and close political ally of Vice President Gore. Not surprisingly, Landow supports primarily Democratic causes.
Most recently, Landow has been in the news for facilitating a donation from two impoverished Oklahoma Indian tribes to the Democratic National Committee.
He’s been to coffees at the White House hosted by both Gore and Clinton.
He did not return repeated telephone calls.Melvin Cohen, Businessman, $73,000
Melvin Cohen of Bethesda founded the Beltsville-base District Photo.
He is also a close associate of Pollin. Together, they adopted a class of sixth graders in 1988, promising college educations to all of them who finished high school.
Cohen’s campaign contributions cross the political spectrum from the DNC to California’s Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
He did not return repeated phone calls.William Snyder, Insurance Executive, $70,780
William Snyder, a major Republican booster, heads up the Bethesda-based Southern Heritage Insurance Co. and is the former chairman of GEICO.
The vast majority of Snyder’s contributions to individual candidates have gone to Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Snyder’s party contributions have gone to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican State Central Committee of Maryland and the Republican National Committee.
He did not return phone calls.Raymond Schoenke, Businessman/Former Redskin, $70,000
Owners aren’t the only folks in sports that can play the political game.
Ray Schoenke may be bettered remembered as a player on the football field, not as Maryland political player.
Since giving up his job as an offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins in 1975, Schoenke has built his Bethesda- based insurance company into a financial success that has let him donate thousands of dollars to Democratic causes.
House Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Mich., Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and Clinton have received contributions from Schoenke.
One cause he may decide to support is his own. Schoenke is contemplating a primary challenge to Gov. Parris Glendening next year.