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District Attorney General Karl Racine took on another title earlier this month: campaign finance watchdog. In an appearance on WAMU’s The Politics Hour, Racine complained that he had been “deluged” by tips about FreshPAC, the Muriel Bowser-affiliated political action committee that he says created the appearance of pay-to-play at city hall.
Bowser’s associates have since shuttered FreshPAC, but Racine’s own campaign finance issues remain. While griping about Bowser, Racine has been fundraising to retire his campaign debt, nearly half a million dollars of which is owed to Racine himself.
Back in March, LL wrote about Racine’s efforts to retire his campaign debt. Now that Racine is presenting himself as the honest alternative to Bowser, though, it’s time to take another look at the debts the District’s attorney general owes to his campaign vendors—and to himself.
As of the July 31 finance filing deadline, Racine’s campaign owed him $451,000 on loans he made during the 2014 campaign. Racine raised nearly $13,000 in the first half of the year to eliminate his campaign debt, much of the money coming from lawyers, and, in one instance, the union that represents District firefighters.
So far, Racine hasn’t spent any of those funds on himself, instead opting to pay off his debts to campaign consultants. But now, Racine spokesman Robert Marus tells LL that, with the vendor debts paid off, Racine is fundraising to retire the campaign’s debt to himself. Cut a check to the attorney general’s campaign, and you’ll be effectively putting money in his bank account.
He’s also apparently avoided another pitfall facing FreshPAC. The PAC’s operators were cagey about whether they asked power utilities Pepco and Exelon for contributions while Bowser negotiated a settlement over their merger. Marustells LL that Racine hasn’t solicited contributions from the power companies.
Fundraising to retire personal campaign debt isn’t unheard of at the Wilson Building. At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, for example, has raised loan-retirement money that then went into his own bank account years after races.
More about any new money and its donors will be revealed on Dec. 10, when Racine’s campaign committee files a new report on how it is spending the money it raises more than a year after the campaign officially “ended.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery