Mayor Muriel Bowser following her 2018 re-election victory
Mayor Muriel Bowser following her 2018 re-election victory Credit: Darrow Montgomery

While everyone is distracted by budget debates, LL almost forgot to check on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s inaugural committee.

The committee’s final report was published in March, and Office of Campaign Finance spokesperson Wesley Williams tells LL that OCF is conducting a routine audit to determine whether each receipt and expenditure was appropriate.

Bowser’s inaugural committee took in nearly $1 million in a span of about seven weeks last year, including several hundred thousands of dollars in donations from people seeking or doing business with the city. The donations kept trickling in after the mayor’s big bash at The Anthem in January.

Critics of inaugural committees say they’re nothing more than mechanisms for deep-pocketed donors to cozy up to powerful elected officials after they’ve taken office.

While we wait for the OCF audit to wrap up, here are some highlights from Herroner’s latest inaugural report:

• Bowser’s committee took in $50,000 in donations on Feb. 15, more than a month after the inaugural party. American University, Venturehouse Group LLC (founded by City Paper owner Mark Ein), Sibley Memorial Hospital, and the Washington Nationals each gave the maximum $10,000. Amazon and ride-hailing company Via Transportation chipped in $5,000 apiece.

• Bowser spent $41,165 on “printing” at Maverick Strategies and Mail LLC, a Virginia-based campaign mailer company. When LL last wrote about Bowser’s inaugural cash earlier this year, a political mailer sent to District residents raised questions of whether the mayor was spending the money appropriately. Bowser’s previous inaugural committee report shows expenditures for $48,000 and $20,800 for “polling/mailing list” and “postage,” respectively.

According to OCF regulations, “inaugural committee funds shall be used solely for the purpose of financing activities to celebrate the election of the new mayor.”

• Bowser paid Sharonda Davila-Irving $1,100 as a “consultant,” according to the report. Davila-Irving is listed as a D.C. public school teacher, and also runs an image consulting firm.

• Bowser donated a total of $85,000 to local nonprofit organizations. Recreation WISH List Committee, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, and Emory Beacon of Light each received $25,000. Mamatoto Village, a maternal support organization, received $10,000.

• The largest chuck of change—$199,706—went to Bowser’s constituent services fund. (Notably, Bowser also donated $150,000 of her leftover 2018 campaign cash to her inaugural committee.)

OCF regulations allow the mayor to donate the inaugural committee’s leftover money to nonprofits or to the slushy constituent services fund, which has drawn criticism from good-government advocates for years.

In March, the government watchdog group Public Citizen called for changes to the rules over constituent services funds, which have been broadly interpreted by local elected officials.

Public Citizen’s analysis found that a majority of constituent services funds spent by the mayor and councilmembers in D.C. have not been used to fulfill the immediate needs of District residents, such as utility bills and funeral costs.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans is perhaps the most notorious constituent services fund rascal—spending $162,816 on professional sports tickets in the past seven years, according to the report. Other pols have used the funds to purchase campaign-style t-shirts, lapel pins, holiday cards, and parade banners.

The Post editorial board has opined on the subject multiple times—including in Bowser’s first term by calling on the mayor to disband her own fund.

Although Bowser has given away hundreds of coats and thousands of dollars in grocery store gift cards, the mayor’s spending on things outside the immediate needs of constituents ranks second only to Evans, Public Citizen’s analysis found.

According to Bowser’s most recent constituent services fund report, filed April 9, she’s spent $2,100 so far in 2019. The Washington Informer Charities and Calvin Coolidge Alumni Association each received $1,000; Allen Chapel AME Church received $100.