ANNAPOLIS – One of the region’s largest newspapers has called him the “most powerful private citizen” in Maryland, but it’s elsewhere that Peter Angelos has tried to extend his influence.
Angelos, a successful tort attorney and owner of the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball team, donated $208,000 to state Democratic parties other than Maryland during the 2000 election cycle, including two $50,000 donations to the North Dakota Democratic Party.
In addition, Angelos and people associated with him or his law firm made political donations totaling $1,975,750 from 1998 to 2000. More than $400,000 of that went to Maryland Democratic candidates.
Angelos’ other out-of-state party donations include a $50,000 contribution to the Nebraska Democratic Party, a $25,000 donation to the Missouri Democratic State Committee, $15,000 to the Democratic Party of New Mexico, a $10,000 gift to the Montana Democrats, $8,000 to Democrats in Virginia and $2,500 to Vermont Democrats.
“I want to see Democrats in power on the state level,” Angelos said. “I think it’s in the best interest for America.”
Election finance critics say what may actually be happening is contributions to states with loose campaign finance laws are being funneled into more restrictive federal committees.
At home, Angelos is controversial, fighting the state over $1 billion in legal fees, guarding against competition from Washington and Northern Virginia for his home team, and battling for unions, asbestos victims and other ordinary people in court.
“Peter Angelos is concerned about good government across the U.S., and he likes what we’re doing in North Dakota,” said Vern Thompson, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic Party.
He has not neglected his home state. Angelos contributed $75,000 to the Maryland Democratic Party in the 2000 election, although the Maryland State Board of Elections did not have the contribution in its database.
Maryland Democratic Party Communications Director David Paulson verified the contribution.
Angelos said he plans to give more to Maryland Democrats this year.
An accurate total of Angelos’ 2002 donations cannot be calculated until all federal parties, state parties and candidates have reported contributions.
Maryland Democrats do not have any problem with Angelos spending his money elsewhere, said Paulson.
“It’s not like we have dibs on that money,” Paulson said. “We’re just grateful he’s on our side.”
Angelos said he has no business in those other states and does not donate for his benefit. In fact, he’s never been to North Dakota and he and Thompson have never met.
“It’s indicative of the North Dakota Democratic Party becoming more and more reliable on large out-of-state donations,” said Jason Stverak, executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party.
Last month, the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan, non-profit Washington, D.C., think tank, ranked the states based on their campaign finance disclosure requirements for political parties.
The states Angelos donated to, with the exception of Maryland, all received poor or failing grades, with North Dakota and Vermont the worst with rankings of 48th and 49th, respectively.
And Angelos was ranked the 23rd largest contributor to state political parties during the 2000 election cycle, the CPI report said.
The Center for Responsive Politics, another campaign watchdog group, named Angelos the 10th largest contributor to the Democratic National Committee during that same cycle.
North Dakota ranked low because its state political parties are required to report all contributions to the party, but don’t have to report where the money goes.
Laws such as that make state political parties a convenient loophole for circumventing federal campaign finance laws, critics charge. Donors often give to those state parties knowing their money will be forwarded to federal parties and federal candidates.
CPI reported in June that $570 million was raised by state political parties during the 2000 election cycle.
“Generally when seeing that much money coming into a state party, it probably means they are funneling the money to a federal candidate or party,” said Bill Allison, CPI managing editor.
Angelos could be giving the money to be used for other state and federal races, or issue ads, Allison said.
“I’m sure they use the money to support their Democratic candidates,” Angelos said.
Those who have the money to give for political purposes, regardless of party affiliation, should, Angelos said, adding that critics of his donations should see him as a model for getting involved in the political process.
Paulson said there isn’t any grounds for anyone to criticize him for his contributions.
“He’s not Enron, he’s not WorldCom and he’s not Halliburton,” Paulson said, referring to corporations involved in recent financial scandals.
“He gives and he doesn’t ask for anything in return,” Thompson said, “which is something I admire.” – 30 – CNS-10-11-02