O'Malley invites politicians, Cabinet, family to Ravens skybox
Governor uses Orioles games more for charities
Gov. Martin O'Malley (center) with Christian Johansson, state secretary of business and economic development, and Jill Kamenetz, wife of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, at a Ravens game. (Sloane Brown / Special to The Baltimore Sun / January 15, 2012)
It's a mix of people designed to forge political alliances and bolster economic growth, but also to allow the Democratic governor a chance to spend more time with those close to him, said Rick Abbruzzese, O'Malley's director of public affairs.
O'Malley uses his box at the Orioles' stadium in a different manner, the records show. Tickets for nearly 40 percent of those games were given to charities, schools, hospitals and nonprofit institutions last season.
Names on the Ravens skybox list include lawyer Bruce Plaxen, an O'Malley campaign contributor; Michael Enright, O'Malley's childhood friend and close ally; and a number of Democratic legislators. House Speaker Michael E. Busch attended the Dec. 11 Colts game in the governor's box, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is not listed on records of attendees.
The lack of an invitation isn't a slight to Miller, Abbruzzese said, adding, "I think he's more of a Redskins fan."
The Orioles' 81-game home schedule makes it easier to include charitable institutions, Abbruzzese said, while noting that the governor did invite military personnel to one Ravens game. Still, the majority of those invited to M&T Bank Stadium for football games have strong ties to Democratic politics.
"With the Ravens box, we haven't had as much opportunity to [provide tickets to charities] because it is only an eight-game season," Abbruzzese said.
Susan Wichmann, the executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, said the boxes shouldn't just be used as a perk for politicians and their families. She said the large number of politicians on the list of attendees shows the Ravens box "is being used as a political tool."
"The governor has ample time to talk to politicians," she said. "We're not saying politicians shouldn't be invited. We think it should be used more equitably."
Common Cause called on O'Malley to create a written policy governing how tickets are distributed for the boxes.
"We call on the governor, as well as [Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake], to have a written, delineated policy so it can't be used as a tool for political favoritism," Wichmann said. "It's a leadership choice they make to turn it into something highly partisan and political."
The Baltimore Sun requested the list of skybox attendees and related documents after Rawlings-Blake's use of her mayoral skybox was thrust into the spotlight. She rescinded an offer of tickets to City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young for the Jan. 11 playoff game against the Houston Texans. The move came after Young publicly criticized her efforts to plan another Grand Prix IndyCar race.
Rawlings-Blake has not released figures documenting how much public money her guests spent on food and drinks at the games.
O'Malley has no formal process for choosing whom to invite to his box, which is provided to the governor under the lease agreement for the stadium, but he uses it to promote "economic development, federal relations, legislative outreach," Abbruzzese said.
Distributing tickets to the luxury box, the spokesman added, is "one of the responsibilities of office, and we take it seriously. There are occasions where family and friends do end up in the box."
Last season, the Ravens played 11 home games, including two in the preseason and one in the playoffs. At nine home games, attendees in the governor's box spent $2,348.90 of public money on food and drinks. Abbruzzese said the state picks up the tab for food and beverages only if O'Malley is present, and he did not attend two of the games.
The most the group spent at a game was $433.90; the least was $34.42, the governor's office said. The stadium provides the food for O'Malley's guests "at cost," rather than the higher prices charged to regular customers.
"We try to be responsible and not overdo it," Abbruzzese said of eating habits in the box.
Among those present at Ravens games were lawmakers such as Baltimore Dels. Maggie L. McIntosh, Keiffer J. Mitchell and Luke Clippinger, all Democrats.