Back in 2005, attorney A. Scott Bolden was putting the finishing touches on his stint as chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Voters ousted him from the committee in the 2004 primary, but he had a little cleaning up to do before kicking his mayoral exploratory effort into high gear.
Someone had rung up about $50,000 on the Democratic State Committee’s credit card—most of it during the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston. “A lot of charges were made by the mayor’s staff and other District-government employees,” Bolden told LL at the time, stressing none of the charges were on him.
Bolden showed his dedication to the party by paying off the debt with two personal checks. Predictable talk of a fundraiser to soften the financial blow to Bolden followed, but apparently he wasn’t leaving the post as the party’s darling.
Those who know say a Bolden debt-retirement fundraiser never materialized.
For most people, that experience would put a damper on any future political spending sprees.
The last cause Bolden bankrolled was his own unsuccessful effort to unseat At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson.
According to financial records released last month, the Bolden 2006 At-Large Council Committee “owes” the candidate $131,087. The final “loan” to the committee changed hands on Dec. 15—a healthy $72,087. And that doesn’t count the $16,000 Bolden contributed to his mayoral exploratory committee, essentially a vehicle to boost his name recognition for the at-large bid.
Bolden’s hefty support for his own political fortunes may be peanuts for a partner at the Reed Smith law firm, but according to a survey of D.C. campaign finance records, Bolden is now the all-time record holder for flushing personal money down the political toilet in a single campaign.
The theory behind richies plowing their own money into a campaign is solid: A strong candidate with a big bank account spends his own way to victory. After taking office, the mogul gets his newfound political friends to pay him back if he needs the cash.
A few years back, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. pulled off a modified version of this route to power. He contributed a paltry amount of his own money to his 2004 council campaign, but felt no compunction about racking up some $35,000 in debt, mostly in unpaid salaries. For Barry, it paid off. After he coasted to victory, the influence peddlers lined up. The muckety-mucks owed him not only for his future cooperation as councilmember, but also for decades of favors handed out when he sat in the mayor’s office.
The business types that backed Bolden’s Mendelson-bashing gave a healthy chunk during the campaign, filling the candidate’s coffers with more than $555,000. With all that cash, Bolden still lost by 27 percentage points in the primary. So now who’s going to help this guy retire his debt?
It’s not that the Chamber of Commerce crowd wants to cozy up to Mendelson any time soon. It’s just that they don’t want to do anything to antagonize an incumbent councilmember.
Bolden had no comment when asked by e-mail whether he had scheduled any fundraisers to help his campaign committee pay him back.
Maybe Bolden can comfort himself with company; he’s certainly not alone in financing a weak political career. In last year’s mayoral race, Michael Brown loaned his campaign $94,000; Vincent Orange advanced his campaign committee $92,000. They now take silver and bronze to Bolden’s gold for greatest amount of personal money spent on a single campaign.
The previous self-financing champ, restaurateur spent around $70,000 of his own money to play the role of court jester during the 1998 mayoral campaign. Gildenhorn, who called his crusade an “issues-oriented” movement, puts himself in a different category than Bolden, Brown, and Orange. “Yeah, just like those guys, I spent a lot of money,” he says. “But I never really expected to win.”
FENTY’S GLBT CHOICE
Mayor Adrian Fenty will soon have to piss off someone in the gay community when he selects a new director of the Office for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. In previous administrations, this appointment was never a huge political moment.
But the 2005 murder of Wanda Alston changed everything. Alston, an appointee of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, was credited with elevating the profile of the position with her intense style of activism and her strong desire to highlight the diversity of the gay community. She was killed by a deranged neighbor, an event that shook Williams and the entire city.
Darlene Nipper, a friend of Alston’s, was appointed to run the office following Alston’s death but left her post in late January. This week, Fenty named Christopher Dyer interim director, but administration sources say the search for a permanent LGBT head remains wide open.
Even before Nipper’s resignation, longtime Fenty backer, fundraiser, and activist Peter Rosenstein—who served on Fenty’s transition team—was working on a replacement for her.
Weeks ago, the Fenty brain trust thought they had a consensus choice: nationally recognized lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid. (Full disclosure: Alexander-Reid works as Washington City Paper’s business development manager.) But Alexander-Reid declined the job for personal reasons. Nipper was asked to stay on as interim director, and Fenty was left in the lurch.
Now Rosenstein and rival elements in the gay community are facing off.
Sources say Rosenstein is pushing Jeff Marootian, 27, the director of the Metropolitan Police Department’s community partnerships program. Marootian is a former advisory neighborhood commissioner who’s been with the D.C. government since 2003.
In an interview, Rosenstein denied pushing any particular candidate. “I haven’t mentioned a single name,” he says.
Others in the gay community who’ve met with the Fenty team are pushing Khadijah Tribble, an activist who serves on the board of Women in the Life Association, a nonprofit group founded by Alexander-Reid. Tribble also works with a variety of other boards in the city and previously worked at Covenant House.
So how heated is the battle?
Tribble’s detractors are already hard at work trying to undermine her nascent candidacy, pointing out her strong commitment to the District has been fairly recent. On her résumé, Tribble lists a D.C. address on 24th Street SE. But according to public records searches, she has no residence in the District. Bill O’Field, spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, reports his search revealed no one named Khadijah Tribble on the D.C. voter rolls.
“I feel very confident that I will meet the requirements of residency,” says Tribble, who claims to have lived in Ward 8 for about a year and a half. “The fact is, I live and work and do my business in the District of Columbia.”
A call placed to the Prince George’s County, Md., number listed for Tribble was answered by a young man, who identified himself as her son. “Where I decide to spend my personal time isn’t anyone’s business,” says Tribble.
The Fenty team isn’t stressed out about having to decide between any rival candidates. “We haven’t interviewed anyone for the position,” says Carrie S. Brooks, Fenty’s spokeswoman.
WILLIAMS GETS EVEN
It didn’t take long for former Mayor Anthony A. Williams to get a fat check after leaving the public sector.
But the $4,000 payment he recently received wasn’t a signing bonus from his new employer, investment banking firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. The check came from an outfit he’d really rather forget—the 2002 Committee to Reelect Tony Williams.
To be fair, the money won’t really get Williams ahead—it’ll just get him even. That’s because it’s a loan repayment, reported in the committee’s Jan. 31 filing.
Now, just why was Williams owed $4,000? He apparently shelled that out from his personal account years ago—to defray the cost of various legal scuffles during his disastrous 2002 reelection campaign. Remember a little bout of petition fraud that kept his name off the Democratic primary ballot? Williams eventually prevailed in a write-in campaign but had to wait a few years for payday.
The former mayor was apparently too busy with golf lessons at the FBR Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz., to return calls from LL.
Two local unions—the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Washington Building & Construction Trade Council—kicked in $2,000 each this summer to the reelection committee. Why would they pony up just as Mayor Williams was becoming an afterthought to D.C. voters? Neither union could explain to LL how they became aware of the pressing need to pay Williams back. The committee had nothing in its coffers prior to the union contributions.
The former mayor didn’t have to go far to get the check. His wife, Diane Simmons Williams, is treasurer of the committee, which might explain why, when the union money came in, Tony was the first in line to get the cash. Next up? The committee still owes $5,950 to the law firm Greenstein, Delorme & Luchs for legal services in the 2002 campaign.
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