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One of the most famous and elusive D.C. political legends has resurfaced in the role that started his run in city politics. Scott Bishop, who has an active warrant for his arrest stemming from his role in Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ 2002 petition scandal, was spotted on Aug. 2 attaching a Marie Johns sign to a light pole near the U Street Metro.
The D.C. Office of the Attorney General has invested significant resources in prosecuting Bishop. Last year, he was charged with hundreds of misdemeanor election-fraud counts in connection with D.C.’s most famous act of political forgery. The authorities haven’t been able to catch up with Bishop, but the people who work for Johns sure know where to locate an old sign pro.
Mount Pleasant activist Laurie Collins spotted Bishop, who once referred to himself as the city’s campaign-sign king. “I recognized him from the  campaign, and remembered when he was the driver for [former D.C. Emergency Management Agency Director] Peter LaPorte,” says Collins.
Bishop appears to have lost some of his people skills. Collins says she introduced herself because she didn’t immediately recall Bishop’s first name. He refused to return the courtesy. If D.C. authorities can locate Bishop within D.C. boundaries, they can arrest him on the spot. Bishop could not be reached for comment.
Johns’ campaign spokesperson, Liz Rose, says Bishop has not been hired to put up signs, but “it is possible one of our contractors could have paid him.” She says having Bishop on the payroll wouldn’t be a big deal to Johns. “Just because someone did something wrong once doesn’t mean [Johns] won’t hire him,” says Rose. “But I don’t think she would hire that guy to do any petitions.”
Bishop’s son, Scott Bishop Jr., says his father is out of the political-sign business. “We do moon-bounce now,” says the son, who offers that he and his father set up and run the kids’ favorite birthday attraction around the region. “He’s done with that political stuff.”
HEDGE YOUR BETS
Last month, the co-chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade PAC, Medstar’s Michael Rogers, was singing the praises of mayoral candidate Linda Cropp.
On June 10, he touted his group’s endorsement of the council chairman by highlighting her attempts to improve the city’s stadium agreement with Major League Baseball. “It would have been easy to say no, no, no, no,” Rogers said at the time. “But she stood in front of a moving train and said, ‘Hold up.’ And I think as a result of that closer scrutiny, the District is better off.”
On Aug. 3, Rogers and his PAC co-chair, Holland and Knight Attorney Roderic Woodson, stood in a packed room at Bobby Van’s Steak House during a fundraiser for another mayoral hopeful: Cropp’s chief rival, Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty. You know, the guy who said no, no, no, no to baseball.
Could it be that the July 23 Washington Post poll that put Fenty out in front has a few heavyweights like Rogers and Woodson hedging their bets?
“It is our responsibility to make sure that with all of the candidates we have cordial relations between the campaigns and the business community,” says Rogers, who did not write a check at the Fenty soiree. Woodson did not return calls seeking comment. Rogers calls his attendance at the Bobby Van’s bash a courtesy to Fenty money-tree shaker Max Brown, a fellow Washington Board of Trade PAC member who invited Rogers and Woodson to attend.
“Whoever is mayor, the business community is here as a vital player, and the expectation is that we will work together,” says Rogers. Whoever is mayor? Rogers sure isn’t showing a ton of confidence in his PAC’s choice to lead the city.
But he can’t feel too bad about cozying up to the front-runner. Board of Trade types aren’t the only business heavies and purported Cropp lovers not convinced of the invincibility of their anointed candidate. The D.C. Chamber of Commerce gave Cropp its endorsement, accolades, and a $1,000 check. In a July 12 press release, the chamber PAC chair, Kelvin Robinson, laid it on thick, concluding that Cropp “has proven herself worthy of [the chamber’s] endorsement.”
However, the chamber PAC has suddenly discovered a new standard for laudability. It recently dropped $1,000 on Fenty, too. Robinson won’t even try to spin this one. “I think a number of the PAC members felt it was important to recognize that this race is a little closer and that some candidates had provided support in other ways.”
When asked to explain what Fenty had done to support the chamber’s agenda, Robinson switched the conversation to the group’s $1,000 contribution to Marie Johns. At least Johns got mentioned in the endorsement press release.
Despite the spreading of its wealth, the chamber PAC is clear on one thing: “Make no mistake about it,” says Robinson, “the chamber and its members endorse and are actively supporting the Cropp campaign.”
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH
Like any savvy politician, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray has no problem accepting money from friends and family. So the candidate for chair of the D.C. Council happily traveled to Baltimore on Aug. 8 for a fundraiser hosted by an old fraternity buddy and his cousin. The fraternity brother is Annapolis superlobbyist Bruce Bereano. Gray’s cousin is Maryland Delegate James Proctor.
In 2004, Bereano—who was convicted of mail fraud and disbarred in 1994—pulled the same stunt when Gray challenged incumbent Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous. During that race, Bereano sent a letter to some of his clients asking them to contribute to Gray’s campaign. The kicker: “I am sure that Delegate Proctor would be very appreciative of any help or support you can give to his cousin Vince,” according to the Washington Post.
Of course, Bereano wouldn’t think of contributing directly to Proctor’s coffers. Maryland prohibits lobbyists from giving money to a state delegate’s campaign committee. But there is nothing stopping him from encouraging his pals to give to the delegate’s cousin Vincent.
Bereano spent five months in a halfway house after his 1994 conviction. The state’s case included evidence that he billed clients for entertaining legislators but channeled the money into the treasuries of candidates for office in Maryland. Bereano’s temporary downfall spurred a major rewrite of Maryland’s political-fundraising laws.
For Bereano, any questions about his motivation for hosting a fundraiser for Gray are completely off-base. “Vince was my little brother in the fraternity,” says Bereano, who doesn’t understand why an encore fundraiser might raise some eyebrows. “There is absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about doing this.”
Bereano is correct.
Raising money for the relative of a member of the legislature from another jurisdiction isn’t covered under Maryland’s lobbying laws. This time around, Bereano didn’t send a letter pointing out that Gray and Proctor were related.
He did, however, invite a few of his clients. “When you fundraise, you go to your social and your business network,” says Bereano. “Some of them know Mr. Gray, some do not. Some know it is important to me,” he says. “The people who get uptight about this need to get a life. They just really need to take a pill.”
In an e-mailed statement, Gray’s campaign spokesperson, Lisa Bass, wrote that “Mr. Bereano is Mr. Gray’s long-time fraternity brother. Mr. Gray welcomes his financial support in his bid to become Chair of the D.C. City Council.”
•Ward 5 D.C. Council candidate Vera Winfield has found that elusive formula for standing out from the other 10 candidates in the city’s most crowded political contest. “I am one candidate who is just about ready to get behind someone else,” she blurted out to LL after the Aug. 2 WTWP-Radio debate. “It’s gotta be Harry,” Winfield said, a reference to fellow candidate Harry “Tommy” Thomas Jr. She went on to tout Thomas’ “sound experience” and the importance of electing a councilmember who “knows who the players are.”
Maybe that explains why when Winfield was asked for her opinion on waste-transfer stations in the ward, she summed up her position by saying, “I have to agree with my colleague Harry Thomas on handling the trash-transfer stations. We can improve it and improve the environmental conditions for the residents.”
Of course, LL wondered when Winfield planned to announce she was bowing out.
“I am only considering stepping out,” said the suddenly noncommittal Winfield. “Then I will announce the candidate of my choice.”
When LL reminded Winfield that her support for Thomas was pointedly delivered to a reporter who had been repeatedly identified as such during the course of the debate, Winfield quickly dismissed her previous endorsement as idle chatter.
Timekeepers at upcoming Ward 5 debates would be wise to subtract Winfield’s comments from Thomas’ allotted time.
Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange doesn’t care about a Washington Post poll showing that his campaign for mayor is all but finished. He’ll be happy as long as he has an audience. While the front-runners in this never-ending Democratic primary campaign—D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp and Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty—try their best to say nothing at public events, Orange revels in sounding like a man with nothing to lose. At a forum last weekend in Ward 7, Orange let fly with a complete range of desperate-but-entertaining flourishes. Here’s how they break down:
Theatrics: Orange shuffled down the aisle of the Ward Memorial A.M.E. Church pretending to tow his wagon of achievements. “When your wagon is full, it doesn’t make a lot of noise.”
Rhyming: “They’ve seen the rest, now they’re gonna see the best.”
Press-bashing: “The Washington Post wants to turn this into an election for homecoming king.”
Pandering: “I’m gonna make some black folks rich.”
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