Who benefits from the money earned by our slumlords?  We had to wonder where their money goes, since it’s obviously not being spent on repairs and lead abatement in their slum properties.  Paul and Aime Nochumowitz filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after being sued multiple times for lead paint poisoning.  We started looking into who profits from the slum economy — besides the drug dealers, lawyers, and unlicensed contractors who make up part of Baltimore’s well-documented “shadow economy“.

We remember hearing that Martin O’Malley returned a campaign contribution he received from Stanley Rochkind’s wife, Rhoda.  And then we wondered who else received slumlord contributions…and how our local politicians and state legislators fared — apparently not well.  Our slumlords seem to be a bit tight-fisted with the campain donations.

Between the Nochumowitz family, Lawerence Polakoff, Stanley Rochkind, and Petar Pecovic, we were able to find a total of almost $8,000 in campaign contributions to six candidates.

Martin O’Malley:  Total, $800

  • $1,000 from Rhoda Rochkind (not included in the total, since this money was returned – a smart move on O’Malley’s part)
  • $500 from Paul Nochumowitz
  • $300 from Petar Pecovic

Jim Brochin:  Total, $1,550

  • $500 from Amie Nochumowitz
  • $500 from Paul Nochumowitz
  • $275 from Lawrence Polakoff
  • $275 from Larry Polakoff

Bobby Zirkin:  Total $400

  • Two contributions of $100 from Amie Nochumowitz
  • Two contributions of $100 from Paul Nochumowitz

Ben Cardin:  Total $3,000

  • Contributions from the Nochumowitz Family from 1998-2005, the largest was $1,000 and the smallest was $250.

Rikki Spector:  Total $1,000

  • One controbution from Lawrence Polakoff

Belinda K. Conaway:  Total, $100

  • One contribution from Stanley Rochkind of $100

We understand that our elected officials or candidates can’t stay on top of where every contribution comes from, and we’re certainly not implying that these legislators are guilty of any wrongdoing. In fact, we received the following email from Marc Lazerow, a legislative aide to Senator Brochin:

As the Senator’s 2006 Campaign Manager for his re-election, I accepted, as did the Senator, contributions from those who support the Senator and not from those who sought political favors.  On numerous occasions, I personally witnessed the Senator tell a potential contributor that he/she should financially support his candidacy based on his voting record and what he has done for his district and the State, not what he/she WANTS him to do.  Senator Brochin votes for his district, not for those who give him money.

As you are probably aware, the ground rent issue became front page on the newspapers during the 2007 legislative session.  Prior to the passage of legislation that year, many were losing their homes because of ground rents with short notice.  Several pieces of legislation were introduced and passed to provide rights and protection to help the middle class and homeownership.  Senate Bill 106, which was signed into law and effective immediately, prohibits the owner of a fee simple or leasehold estate in specified residential property from creating a reversionary interest in the property under a ground lease or a ground sublease.  In addition, legislation like Senate Bill 397entitled, “Conversion of Irredeemable Ground Rents”, provides for the conversion of an irredeemable ground rent to a redeemable one unless a notice of intention is recorded in the land records.  Senator Brochin supported these bills along with other legislation designed to overhaul the flawed, arcane ground rent system that favored ground rent holders, not the people.

With that said, I verified through the Campaign Finance records that the Senator did in fact receive $1,000.00 from Paul and Amie Nochumowitz during his first election.  As shown above, Senator Brochin is not beholden to any special interest groups.

We also noticed that in 2008, Senator Brochin was a sponsor of SB 218, a bill designed to protect homeowners in foreclosure from being swindled by “foreclosure consultants”.  We’re hoping that Senator Brochin will speak out against poor business practices among property owners, particularly absentee property owners and others who force their tenants to live in unsafe conditions.

In an ideal world, we’d like to see these elected officials either return these contributions, or donate the money to a good cause.  We’d also like to see our current laws enforced, and new laws enacted to protect the public from unsafe housing.  Other states are making great strides in this direction — why is Maryland (and in particular, Baltimore City) falling behind?