A super PAC formed to support the mayoral campaign of Sheila Dixon and largely funded by two donors has started spending its piles of cash on TV ads.

The Better Baltimore PAC sent $160,870 to Canal Partners Media, an Atlanta-based national TV ad firm that claims to be President Biden’s lead buying agency, on Monday. It sent $20,000 to Washington, D.C.-based RSH Campaigns the same day.

Unlike standard campaign accounts, which report their contributions and spending at intervals set by the state board of elections, Maryland super PACs must file a public report within 48 hours of spending $10,000 on advertisements.

The new report, which detailed the PAC’s financial activity between Jan. 10 and Monday, also shows David Smith, chairman of Sinclair Inc. and co-owner of The Baltimore Sun, and real estate developer John Luetkemeyer Jr. have continued to give money to the super PAC in the last eight weeks.

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Luetkemeyer cut the PAC a $200,000 check the day after a deadline to report 2023 and early January spending. He donated $100,000 in August 2023.

David Smith contributed $100,000 on Feb. 21. He donated the same amount in October. His nephew, Alex Smith with Atlas Restaurant Group, donated $50,000 on Feb. 27.

Thomas Moorehead, a Florida entrepreneur, donated $10,000 on Jan. 18. Limestone Capital, an LLC with a Colorado mailing address, donated $500.

In November, the PAC spent around $63,000 on a poll from Lake Research Partners. It has also steadily spent on work from Evers-Chance LLC, a Georgia-based investigative research firm, and on consulting fees from Baltimore-based Adeo Advocacy.

The recent spending funds an attack ad targeted at incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott, Dixon’s chief opponent in the Democratic primary. It echoes Dixon’s campaign rhetoric, which rests on the argument that Scott is an inexperienced and incompetent manager.

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“Nice guy, bad mayor,” the ad closes, showing a 2019 Associated Press photo of a younger Scott before the mayor grew out his hair during the pandemic. A narrator complains of increased car thefts, violent crime spiraling out of control, and $10 million in federal housing funding lost due to late paperwork.

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Auto thefts have increased during Scott’s tenure, as they have in cities nationwide. Baltimore saw a decline in homicides and shootings last year, a trend that has continued into 2024.

A series of clerical errors meant Baltimore blew a deadline for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants; the agency let the city submit a reimbursement request for $6.4 million in February.

Sophia Silbergeld, a president at Adeo, said the ad will air on broadcast and cable television stations in Baltimore from Wednesday through March 12.

“This is a fact-based ad that aligns with the sentiments of a majority of Baltimoreans, who feel that the city needs leadership that is more effective and engaged,” she said.

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Family ties

Both the Smith and Luetkemeyer families have spent heavily to support Dixon.

Donors may contribute no more than $6,000 to a candidate’s campaign. There are no limits to how much cash super PACs may accept from individuals or companies.

Alex Smith had not previously donated to the PAC, though the restaurateur, his brother and their business each donated $6,000 directly to Dixon’s campaign, according to the most recent campaign reports filed in January. Their father Frederick Smith, the vice president and director of Sinclair, also maxed out his contribution, as did Alex Smith’s wife, Christina Ghani.

Dixon also received maximum individual contributions from several Luetkemeyer family members. Actress Julie Bowen Luetkemeyer, Jean Prema, Annie Luetkemeyer and Mary Luetkemeyer each donated $6,000. All of the women but Prema live in California, according to the addresses they provided the state board of elections.

Dixon raised about $523,000 in 2023 and reported having $370,000 on hand in early January, the most recent reporting deadline for campaign accounts.

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Scott reported a war chest of $835,000. He raised just over $682,000 in 2023.

Campaigns will next report expenditures on April 9 and May 3. The primary is May 14.

This story has been updated to correct the date of date of the mayoral debate in the photo caption.

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news.

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