Bainum's Banner Associated With Democratic Operatives
KO Public Affairs is handling PR for the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism
The Stewart Bainum created Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism is working with a Democratic PR firm that was involved in attempts to seize the Baltimore Sun by eminent domain.
On an October 26th press release from the Venetoulis Institute, Rick Abbruzzese of KO Public Affairs was listed as a media contact.
Rick served as a top adviser and Director of Public Affairs to former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. As chief spokesperson for the O’Malley administration, he was responsible for overseeing internal and external communications, political outreach, policy development and intergovernmental affairs for the governor’s office. In this role, Rick also served as a senior strategist on Maryland’s Dream Act referendum campaigns.
Abbruzzese’s employer is KO Public Affairs. One of the principals of KO is Damian O’Doherty. Damian O’Doherty is a founding partner of KO Public Affairs, a lobbying organization with ties to prominent Democrats. KO runs Center Maryland, which has often blurred the line between being news or being activism. He waspart of the Save Our Sun group trying to take over The Baltimore Sun.
O’Doherty was also involved a key player, along with Anne Arundel County Executive Steaurt Pittman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, State Senator Sarah Elfreth, in discussions to potentially seize The Baltimore Sun by eminent domain. The Duckpin reported on that story first back in February.
This raises all sorts of red flags, some of which I first brought up about Bainum’s potential bias back in February shortly after Bainum’s intent to purchase The Sun was first announced:
We cannot adequately discuss concerns without discussing Bainum’s politics. No, Bainum is not currently as politically involved as Damian O’Doherty, Matt Gallagher, and others involved in the Save Our Sun effort. But Bainum is a former politician; he served one term in the House of Delegates, one term in the State Senate, ran for Congress, and almost ran for Governor. He donated $3 million last year to various efforts to elect Joe Biden. He is still listed as a trustee of the Maryland Democratic Party (along with, incidentally, Damian O’Doherty).
Bainum is still listed as a silver trustee of the Maryland Democratic Party.
So now, we know that Bainum and the Venetoulis Institute are linked with some of the same Democrats who appear to have wanted to seize The Sun by eminent domain earlier this year.
Now, here’s what we do not know about the relationship between Bainum, the Venetoulis Institute, and KO:
What is the nature of the association between VILJ and KO? Is KO being paid? Is KO providing free services? Is there a quid pro quo?
Who is on the Venetoulis Institute Board? While the VILJ website lists their leadership, it does not list their Board of Directors. Paperwork filed with the state of Maryland indicates that VILJ has reserved their name, but not filed any formal paperwork yet to become an official entity. So is Damian O’Doherty or any other KO affiliates going to be on the organizational Board of Directors?
Does KO intend to use The Baltimore Banner to plant stories that are activism masquerading as “journalism” as they have with Center Maryland?
Every time that we hear something about The Baltimore Banner, we end up with more questions than answers and more concerns about the credibility and potential biases within the paper. Bainum and company should address these concerns now so that the people the intend The Baltimore Banner to serve can trust that their operation is going to provide real news and not merely propaganda.