Last year, some friends of former Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. got together at the City Club of Washington. The gathering looked like a mid-’80s D.C.-government reunion. Developer and former Ward 7 Councilmember H.R. Crawford attended the event, as did former Barry-administration cabinet members such as Ivanhoe Donaldson, according to two attendees.
The soiree was a fundraiser, of sorts, for Barry.
The 50 or so local powerbrokers contributed various amounts to the cause. Yet the money wasn’t collected to help pay for campaign posters or mailings. Or overpriced campaign consultants. And none of it was reported to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Barry, in fact, was a year away from announcing his intentions to seek the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat.
The money collected that evening went to pay Barry’s personal bills.
The contributions were put in a financial trust managed by trustees including Crawford, according to two Barry associates. Barry says he has no knowledge of the contributor list nor how much cash was collected for him. He says he informed the fund trustees of his financial obligations. “I gave them a whole long list,” explains Barry. “I don’t know who gave a nickel.”
At his campaign kickoff Saturday, Barry reeled off a bunch of selfless reasons for his return to politics. “I was horrified what’s happening here,” he told his crowd of supporters. The school system is unaccountable. The city needs a public hospital. Ward 8 still has no major supermarket. And Barry insisted that the ward’s streets and alleys are the dirtiest in the city. “Ward 8 needs a fighter,” read the slogan in front of his campaign headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.
Barry’s financial troubles and the trust add another possible reason: He needs the money.
This much we know: He certainly needs a car. When he pulled up to his campaign launch for the Ward 8 council seat a half-hour late on Saturday, he stepped out from the passenger side of a Mercedes with Maryland license plates. The car had been driven by his campaign chair, Robert James, who later explained that he had borrowed the German-engineered ride from his son.
“I don’t have a car,” said Barry when questioned about the suburban wheels. “My Jaguar blew up on me.” Barry says his sweet ride started to sour last winter when the car’s catalytic converter cracked. This spring, when the Jag blew a head gasket, Barry decided the estimated $5,000 repair wasn’t a prudent expenditure.
A $92,520 part-time D.C. Council salary would go a long way toward payments on the next Barry luxury vehicle. But the longtime politico says he’s not running for the money. “I got a job,” he told reporters at his campaign kickoff. “I make over six figures.”
That’s the talk of a Wall Street guy. In 1999, when he “retired from electoral politics,” Barry went into a politician’s second career of choice: consultant. He incorporated as Capital Advisors Inc. and started working with M.R. Beal & Co., an African-American-owned Wall Street investment-banking firm. The former mayor lists his business address as 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, though he says he usually conducts business on his cell phone from home.
After all, he’s got 2,000 anytime minutes.
Barry explains that he’s a “door opener” for the firm. He says that he has worked on deals with various mayors around the country, including Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.
From February 1999 through April 2001, Barry received a $5,000 monthly retainer from M.R. Beal for “advisory services to Company and its Investment Banking Department in their efforts with respect to the negotiated underwriting of bond and note issues in the District of Columbia and other locations designated by the Company,” reads a document submitted by the firm to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, which regulates the securities industry.
M.R. Beal founder and CEO Bernard Beal says he asked Barry to work with his firm when Barry left the mayor’s office. “I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s a smart man,” says Beal.
Beginning in May 2001, however, Barry’s retainer from M.R. Beal was cut in half, to $2,500 a month. Beal declines to comment on the reason, saying that he never comments on compensation. “We’re very satisfied with his work,” says Beal.
Here’s how Barry’s financial-consulting income breaks down over the past five years, according to M.R. Beal’s filings:
1999: $50,000 plus $3,347 in expenses
2001: $50,000 plus $14,022.78 in expenses
2004: $7,500 (through March)
These annual takes consist of his monthly retainer plus the occasional commission from special deals that the charismatic pol helped to broker. In the last quarter of 2001, for example, Barry secured a financial-advisory appointment for M.R. Beal with the D.C. Department of Health for the “State Health Planning & Development Agency Safety Net Project,” which earned him an extra $10,000 on top of his monthly retainer.
According to the filings, Barry has mostly worked on financial deals involving airports, including work with the Denver International Airport, Miami-Dade County Airports, and the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority in Mississippi. In 2002, Barry consulted on a $107,235,000 bond deal with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
M.R. Beal does a lot of municipal securities work in New York, Illinois, California, and Florida. The company has less business with the District of Columbia. In the second quarter of 2002, according to company reports, Barry worked on a deal with the D.C. Housing Finance Agency involving $3.2 million in housing revenue bonds for apartments at Euclid and Chapin Streets in Columbia Heights.
Barry doesn’t rely just on his income from M.R. Beal. He also says that he works as a contractor for other interests. And with his 25 years of public service to the city, he also collects a pension, which the Washington Post reported in 2000 as $34,000.
Putting the two streams of income together, Barry has made at least between $66,500 and $94,000 a year over the past five years. Barry claims that those numbers are low, because the M.R. Beal filings don’t reflect some of his investment-banking income. Yet the former mayor recently told LL that he took a financial hit last year. “I’ve never been this broke in my life,” he said, bemoaning the downsizing of a contract he worked on with the D.C. Department of Health that he claims greatly reduced his earnings last year.
Barry says he’s back on his feet now. “My financial difficulties were a temporary situation, and that’s no longer a problem,” he says.
For all his misdeeds in the mayor’s suite, Barry never got caught taking public monies. While many close to him amassed wealth, Barry has lived primarily off his government salary. According to financial-disclosure statements filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, Barry did not receive any outside income or make any investments in stocks or bonds that exceeded $5,000 during his years as mayor and councilmember.
His biggest asset apparently is his Congress Heights home, assessed by the city’s Office of Tax and Revenue at $207,810.
After he separated from wife Cora Masters Barry, Barry moved out of that house. He now lives in an apartment in the Washington View complex, a group of four-story brick buildings nestled atop Stanton Road SE.
The financially strapped version of Barry is clearly what inspired Crawford and other Barry old-timers to help him out last year. Yet on Saturday, LL spotted none of those familiar faces at his campaign kickoff.
Barry says he never passed the tin cup. “I didn’t ask for one penny,” says Barry of the financial assistance. “I had nothing to do with it.”
And none of this income stuff, says Barry, matters to those he cares about now. “It’s not an issue with the people of Ward 8,” he says.
•At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil has attracted some headlines as well as quite a bit of money for his re-election. As of his June 10 filing with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, Brazil had raised $398,000 for his re-election efforts. The incumbent councilmember has spent quite a chunk on consultants and other things but still has $179,000 in his war chest.
Challenger Kwame Brown has raised a respectable $87,000 for his run but has only $15,000 left to spend. Fellow at-large hopeful Sam Brooks has raised $46,000, with $19,000 cash on hand.
Other incumbents have collected quite a bit of cash to ward off challenges. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans has raised $274,000. Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian M. Fenty has raised $276,000.
Ward 7’s Kevin P. Chavous has raised $94,000 and has $72,000 left to spend. Challenger Vincent Gray collected $14,000 for his campaign efforts but has spent all but $1,325.
Ward 8’s Sandy Allen asked for an extension on her campaign-finance filing.
•After thousands of invalid signatures and two years of examination, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has declined to prosecute any individuals involved with Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ 2002 nominating petition fiasco.
“That decision was reached following an exhaustive investigation working with FBI, in which we concluded early last month that there was insufficient evidence to bring federal charges in the matter,” reports Channing Phillips, spokesperson for the office, via e-mail.
Phillips says that matter might still be taken up with the D.C. Office of the Attorney General—formerly the Office of Corporation Counsel—which prosecutes any infraction of local election law. —Elissa Silverman
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