Frank M. Conaway Sr.
Political candidates sometimes have multiple campaign committees to raise and spend money on their elections, but not always. In fact, most of this year's nine Democratic Baltimore City mayoral candidates keep it simple by having only one. Others get complicated, such as former public school principal Andrey Bundley and activist Desiree M. Dodson, whom both have three committees (The Count, Campaign Beat, July 25). With six, Baltimore City Clerk of the Circuit Court Frank M. Conaway Sr. tops the complexity list.
Conaway Sr.'s half-dozen accounts are a by-product of his decades-long pursuit of various public offices, leaving behind old, closed committees still on record. But two of Conaway Sr.'s committees have been active in recent years: the Three Bears Slate and Friends to Elect Frank M. Conaway. Another, Conaway for Mayor, is new; its first report is due to the Maryland State Board of Elections on Aug. 14, so what it has raised and spent is not yet available.
The Three Bears Slate is an oddly named beast, as it supports four candidates: Conaway Sr.; his son Frank M. Conaway Jr., a 40th District state delegate; his daughter Belinda K. Conaway, the 7th District city councilwoman; and his wife, Mary W. Conaway, the Circuit Court's elected Register of Wills. Its main benefactor is Conaway Sr., whose credit formed a large slice of the $62,806.55 raised by Three Bears since its 2005 inception. In January, Conaway Sr. forgave $11,362.73 in loans made to Three Bears from himself and his other political committees, and an additional $10,132.50 in loans he made to Three Bears has been repaid.
Also strongly backing the Three Bears, with $5,430, was the Baltimore City Sitting Judges Committee, which works to persuade voters to keep incumbent judges. More came in from the political world: $1,500 from U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin's campaign, $750 from Friends of Mary W. Conaway, and $500 from Friends of Bernard C. Young, the 12th District city councilman. Top among the business donations, with $4,000, was Cecilton Amusements, an Elkton-based vending-machine company controlled by an ex-city cop, Ronald David Jones ("Mob Rules," Books, Oct. 6, 2004), who has long been active in local politics. Next up was $1,500 from Salon Di Artiste-Giovanna, the Mount Washington hair salon owned by another longtime political broker, Giovanna "Gia" Blatterman ("Light Headed," The Nose, May 15, 2002).
Three Bears has spent $62,936.55, and its biggest payments went for traditional politicking: catered events, advertising expenses, and donations to political allies. Former Parks Sausage Co. CEO Raymond Haysbert's company, Forum Caterers in Northwest Baltimore, was the Three Bears' caterer of choice, earning $6,360.90. Advertising-related services came from three vendors: Culbreth Advertising ($4,890), which is not listed in public records as a state-chartered corporation and whose address at 1819 E. North Ave. is owned by Daniel Culbreth of Oxon Hill, who was sued over the property this year by the city health department; Advertising and Supply of Omaha, Neb. ($5,018.04); and Personalized Graphics ($5,456.98). The latter shares the same address--3820 Liberty Heights Ave.--as three other Three Bears payees: Conaway Sr. himself, the Baby Bear Committee to Elect Frank M. Conaway Jr., and Cornecia Dawson, about whom nothing could be learned. The largest political donation made by Three Bears was $4,500 to Metro Political Organization, a club formed last year by Conaway Sr. and several other political and business leaders. Metro also donated $633.75 to the slate.
Whereas Three Bears works for the whole Conaway family, the now-closed Friends to Elect Frank M. Conaway supported only Conaway Sr.'s runs for public offices. From 2000 until its dissolution early this year, it raised $56,058 and spent $79,462.64. Its top patrons were: the Hubble Co. ($4,000), formerly headed by the late John Hubble, a past Baltimore City real-estate officer and, long ago, himself a city clerk of the Circuit Court; Daily Record executive Frederick D. Godman ($2,840); M&T Bank ($2,705); Hal Katz of Katz's Insurance Agency ($2,200), who in the past has also supported mayoral candidate Desiree Dodson's campaigns; and Conaway Sr. employee Anthony S. Dix ($2,060), the administrative manager of the Baltimore City Circuit Court.
Friends to Elect Frank M. Conaway's spending focused largely on $13,340 in loan repayments to Conaway Sr. and on having catered events at the Forum, which received 15 checks totaling $12,483.50. Printing and campaign materials ate up another $18,000.16, and rent--adding up to $8,000 between 2001 and '03--went to Avant Garde Travel and Entertainment Center, at the same Liberty Heights address as so many other Conaway-related concerns. The Avant Garde name has long been associated with Conaway Sr., who in 1982 vacated a state delegate seat amid charges that he mishandled finances at his insurance companies.
Conaway Sr.'s campaign finances may be complicated, but compared to the next two mayoral candidates up for the Count's accounting--incumbent Sheila Dixon and City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.--they are small. Conaway Sr. and the other six candidates have tight groups of main backers (or none at all), but Dixon and Mitchell draw from the deep, wide pockets of real power. Over the next two weeks, looking at Dixon's and Mitchell's fatter wallets will show some of the core political money in Baltimore.