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Two D.C. Council committees met today to talk development deals, but Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh had something else on her mind. In a lengthy exchange, Cheh grilled developer Buwa Binitie over his contribution to Muriel Bowser-affiliated FreshPAC.

Cheh, along with six other councilmembers, backs legislation that would prevent the political action committee from accepting unlimited contributions in non-election years like 2015. That opening has left FreshPAC pulling in mammoth sums—-Binitie, for example, gave $10,000.

Cheh claims the PAC, which already has more than $300,000, wants to raise $1 million by the end of the year. That hefty bank account could mean be a big help power for Bowser and her affiliated candidates in next year’s Council races.

“You are hurting the reputation of the mayor and you are hurting the reputation of the District,” Cheh told Binitie, a principal in developer Dantes Partners and major District political donor.

Binitie, at the hearing ostensibly to talk about development at 8th and O streets NW, told Cheh and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson that he didn’t remember who asked him to make the contribution to FreshPAC.

Pressed by Cheh on whether the PAC was created to influence councilmembers, Binitie demurred. Instead, he said FreshPAC was no different than any other PAC—-including the ones that have backed Cheh’s own campaigns.

“The PAC exists to move the mayor’s vision forward,” Binitie said.

Cheh’s questions were blistering enough that Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who also backs the bill aimed at FreshPAC, said she was “a little offended by the attacks on character.”

Cheh countered that FreshPAC, not Binitie, is the target of her ire.

“I will continue to criticize this PAC as long as I can,” Cheh said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery