- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

College Park, a summary of seized items shows.

The donor, Kenneth H. Michael, controls a company that leases space to Shoppers in north College Park. Shoppers Food Warehouse’s corporate headquarters was raided May 29, the same day as Mr. Currie’s home.

Mr. Currie, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, co-sponsored a bill in 2005 with other Prince George’s lawmakers to transfer a liquor license from a Shoppers store in Takoma Park to the one in the College Park shopping center run by the Michael Companies.

The Michael Companies donated more than $21,000 to Mr. Currie, Prince George’s Democrat, and nearly $300,000 to other Maryland lawmakers over the past decade, according to state elections records.

Common Cause Maryland, which supports public campaign financing, described the Currie contributions as exceptionally large for state politics. “Wow, holy mackerel,” he said.

The search results provided by the federal prosecutor’s office lists the letter uncovered at Shoppers as “correspondence fr. Kenneth H. Michael regarding liquor licensing for the SFW store in College Park, MD.”

City leaders opposed the liquor-license transfer at the time, saying they were blindsided by state lawmakers.

“It was done without the knowledge of the people in College Park,” said City Council member Robert T. Catlin. “It just popped up in Annapolis overnight and got voted on and was all a done deal.”

Executives at the Michael Companies have not returned phone calls over the past six days.

An FBI spokesman would not comment on whether the Michael Companies also is the subject of investigation.

A spokeswoman for Supervalu, which owns the Shoppers grocery chain, declined to comment on business relations with the Michael Companies, political donations made by the company or Mr. Currie’s consulting for Shoppers.

Maryland Delegate Justin D. Ross, Prince George’s Democrat, who works as a commercial real estate agent at the Michael Companies, voted in favor of the liquor-license transfer.

Mr. Ross disclosed his work for the Michael Companies in an ethics form he filed just months before voting on the license transfer, but did not recuse himself from the vote - as lawmakers often do if there is a possible conflict of interest.

“In a citizen legislature, you have to be diligent about making sure you don’t have a conflict of interest,” Mr. Ross said when asked whether he should have voted for the liquor-license transfer. “I always recuse myself when there is a conflict of interest.”

Details of the FBI’s investigation into Mr. Currie and Shoppers Food Warehouse have not been entirely clear, though the results of the raid last month on Mr. Currie’s home and the Shoppers’ headquarters appear to have cemented the connection between Mr. Currie and Shoppers.

Investigators took tax returns dating back to 2002 from Mr. Currie’s home, along with a 2007 paycheck stub from Shoppers Food Warehouse, documents related to Shoppers, and marijuana and drug packaging materials.

In addition to the correspondence with Senator Ulysses Currie - ‘Contract Agreements.’ ”

Mr. Michael has donated $27,500 to Mr. Currie and Mr. Ross directly and through nine different limited-liability corporations and limited partnerships registered under his name or to his company over the past decade, according to campaign-finance records.

Many other top company executives along with their wives donated thousands of dollars. Among those who donated were Gary and Kim Michael and David and Cheryl Michael, according to campaign records.

The Michael Companies manages commercial real estate - including shopping centers - throughout the suburban D.C. region. The Maryland Daily Record named the company one of 27 “Real Dealmakers” last year for its work in real estate.

The company has in the past decade donated close to $300,000 to Maryland politicians - including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican - through top executives, their wives and limited-liability partnerships and corporations registered to the company.

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