The new face of the Republican Party brings all the familiar elements to the table. Illegal use of campaign funds. Front companies. Cronyism. Links to those involved in treason. Oh yes, and hookers.
Over the past two weeks, we've learned that Michael Steele, the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, failed Senate Candidate and now national GOP Chairman had some campaign funding irregularities back in 2005. The first tip came courtesy of the FBI, who had to admit that it is investigating Steele for finance improprieties during his ill-fated 2006 Senate bid. The second came yesterday as part of a Baltimore area TV station's investigation.
So just what have we learned?
On February 10, we learned that Steele's campaign paid his sister Monica $37,000 in 2007 for catering and web work supposedly done for the 2006 campaign by her company Brown Sugar Unlimited, LLC. Trouble is, his sister never did the work and her Maryland-based company had ceased to legally exist before it supposedly did the work. In fact, Steele's Monica Turner (former wife of Mike Tyson) is a pediatrician. Oops!
On March 3, we learned that in 2006 Steele's campaign paid a Maryland-based company called Allied Berton $64,000 for "political consulting." Trouble is, Allied Berton by its own description is in the business of trading commodities, such as minerals, metals, coffee and sugar," not political consulting. To add insult to injury, former Governor Ehrlich's campaign committee paid the firm $229,000, Ehrlich's running mate paid $73,000 and the state Republican party paid $50,000. That's a lot of money for a company trading coffee. Oops!
I think the February 10 story received sufficient press, so I'm going to focus on Allied Berton.
Allied Berton is owned by a Maryland state GOP power player named Sandy Roberts. Sandy is a DC attorney. Sandy and his wife run airport news stands at BWI called Olympic News. And Sandy and his wife Terri sell supplies to hospitals, janitors, and the US military through their company Olympic Supply, Inc. Pardon my crassness, but Sandy trades on the fact that he is black. Both of Sandy's businesses take advantage of minority (or disadvantaged) contract preferences. More on that in a moment. Sandy is also a GOP powerbroker, having thrown several kickin' parties at the NY 2004 GOP convention, by undisclosed donors for the Governor and "da man."
"We categorically deny any involvement in, or connection, with prostitution," , an attorney for Christopher D. Baker, president of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc., said in a letter to The Washington Post. "Shirlington Limousine has never been a part of, nor involved in, any illicit or illegal activities that may have taken place in connection with Congressman Cunningham." WaPo
Yep, that's our guy, Sandy Roberts, back in 2006, defending Chris Baker from accusations that he chauffeured around corrupt Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now jailed CIA spook Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and jailed San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes to sex and poker parties at the Watergate Hotel. Chris Baker and Shrilington Limo were an interesting piece of this puzzle, because Baker somehow managed to land several contracts with the Department of Homeland Security, despite a "mile long rap sheet" and the fact that he fraudulently registered himself as a minority business. TPM Muckraker covered this story extensively in 2006.
As TPM said it best, "Shirlington Limo appears to connect a growing list of high-powered Washington elites to the world of crime." GOP elites, that is.
So Sandy Roberts represents the morally, financially and ethically corrupt. A perfect pairing for Steele, Erlich and the GOP.
Today, Sandy's a bit down on his luck,, it seems.
**His Olympic Airport News concessions at Baltimore Washington International Airport (obtained using minority contractor preferences with the help of former Governor Ehrlich) are being challenged by other vendors that his businesses are not independent, small, and black-run but instead appear to be a thinly disguised front for behemoth corporate parent Hudson News.
**His Olympic Airport News concessions at BWI are also being challenged by the US Olympic Committee for trademark infringement.
**And like Michael Steele's sister's business, Sandy's business - Allied Berton - too itself was not a legal corporate entity when it received payment for campaign services in 2006. Allied's business registration had been forfeited in 2005. Again, Steele and others appear to have broken Maryland Campaign law by paying a company that didn't exist. And questions have been raised if Allied Berton delivered any services in exchange for payment.
According to the website, here's what Allied Berton has to say about itself:
Allied Berton is a commodities trading and distribution firm specializing in minerals and metal ores, concentrates, residuals and byproducts, fertilizers and agricultural products, and construction materials. The company operates primarily through its main offices in North America, and through affiliated offices in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Minerals and Metals
Aluminum, Copper, Cobalt, Lead and Zinc Concentrates, Residuals and Tailings Feldspar, Silicates, Tantalum, Tungsten, Ores, Precious Metal Bearing Pyrites, Slags and Sludges
Fertilizer and Agricultural Products
Ammonia, Urea, Phosphates, Mixed Solutions, Cocoa, Coffee Beans, Rubber, Sugar
Aggregates, Cement, Reinforcing Bar, Billets
P.O. Box 22131
Houston, Texas 77027
Phone: (713) 629-1049
Fax: (713) 623-4983
P.O. Box 4331
Capitol Heights, MD 20791
Phone: (301) 218-4500
Fax: (301) 218-6500
Hardly sounds like the type of outfit that the Maryland GOP would approach for campaign volunteers, vehicles or "garden variety campaign services."
If you look up the Maryland information and phone numbers, that clearly tracks back to Sandy Roberts.
If you look up the Texas information and phone numbers (I'll save you the hassle), that tracks back to Cuthbert Roberts. Cuthbert appears to be an energy executive forDow Chemical. He also worked for Enron. Cuthbert shares the same last name as Sandy, I bet they're brothers. (As some commenters have pointed out, they both appear to be in their 40's).
Now I'm wondering, just wondering, if Cuthbert ever had any official business (Enron, Dow or others) with Erlich, Steele or the State of Maryland that may have been helped by his brother/father -- or helped by Allied Burton's "campaign work." I wonder if he knew that his coffee trading company was doing Maryland State campaign work. Hmmm.
Oh, and Cuthbert and Lily apparently want to do business in Darfur.
Not to be outdone, Sandy's wife Terri Roberts has her own company too, TWR Associates. And she, too, is collecting Michael Steele's campaign money!
Payor: Steele, Michael For Maryland Committee
Payee: TWR Associates, Mitchellville, MD, 20721
$599.36 12/15/2004 Fundraising Events [Remarks: Travel]
$192.10 7/30/2004 Field Expenses [Remarks: transportation]
$21.00 1/29/2004 Printing and Campaign materials
$5,260.00 12/13/2002 FR Event [Rmks: Food, postage, printing]
Payor: Prince George's County Rep Ctee
Payee: TWR Associates, Mitchellville, MD, 20721
$1,000.00 5/5/2003 Expenses of Your Fundraising Events (Describe in Remarks) [Remarks: consulting]
$1,000.00 3/13/2003 Expenses of Your Fundraising Events (Describe in Remarks) [Remarks: consultant]
$300.00 3/3/2003 Expenses of Your Fundraising Events (Describe in Remarks) [Remarks: consulting]
$500.00 2/6/2003 Expenses of Your Fundraising Events (Describe in Remarks) [Remarks: consulting]
$500.00 2/3/2003 Expenses of Your Fundraising Events (Describe in Remarks) [Remarks: consulting]
Michael Steele, just what sort of game are you running here?
Michael Steele, good for today's GOP.
**Update 7:35 p.m. (ET)
Thanks to everyone for your rec's and for your enthusiasm.
The headline was designed to draw readers, but it was drafted in true GOP spirit. Roberts was clearly one of Steele's political patrons. That political patron represented a shady client. So that client's stink comes back to haunt the politician. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
And here's another tidbit to illustrate how the Roberts and Michael Steele linked up. Who ended up owning whom?
Sandy and Terri Roberts, black Democrats who own a distributing company and live in the gated community of Woodmore in Mitchellville, held a reception for Ehrlich and Steele this month. About 200 of their neighbors came -mostly Democrats.
Terri Roberts said she was impressed by Ehrlich, and might vote for him. She has heard Townsend talk about the Kennedy family's commitment to civil rights, and her portrayal of Ehrlich as someone who voted against affirmative action and other programs that would help blacks.
"Even though that rhetoric always touches us to the core," Roberts said, "we're trying to get beyond that. There are other issues, issues related to business, our business."
From Ehrlich Moves East In Search of Voters in Tight Race, Baltimore Sun, 10/21/02