Tis the season for D.C.’s elected officials to gin up some goodwill by attaching their names to Thanksgiving turkey giveaways.
As in years past, Barry is declining to say who paid for the turkeys he’ll be giving away or whether those donors also have contracts with the city.
“Suppose they are,” says Barry, who says city contractors shouldn’t be barred from being charitable. He says he’s keeping his donors secret to protect them from the media.
“You all beat up on good people for doing good things,” Barry says. “I’m not ever telling.” He adds that several would-be donors to his most recently campaign shied away from giving because they did not want their names printed in his campaign finance reports.
By contrast, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander (whose turkey giveaway is currently underway at the Deanwood recreation center) says Safeway, Walmart, and United Healthcare donated the turkeys.
Not that Alexander had to tell LL who paid for the birds, as the District’s campaign finance law appears to have a turkey giveaway loophole. Politicians have to report similar acts of generosity like paying someone’s rent, covering an electric bill, or sending flowers to a funeral, on their constituent services fund disclosure forms. But disclosure of anything turkey-related appears optional.
Barry ‘s constituent service fund reports offer no clues who is paying for turkeys and how that money is spent. Last year Barry told LL that his donors gave to a nonprofit of his choosing, which then bought the turkeys. In 2009, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham reported giving to Bread for the City for his turkey giveaway but didn’t report any spending related to the gift cards he handed out with the turkeys. A transcript from a recorded conversation with Graham’s former chief of staff indicates that an undercover FBI agent may have secretly funded the cards.
If you’re stressing over a city contractor potentially donating tens of thousands (Barry says his giveaway cost about $40,000 last year) in secret to events that—besides providing the needy with free turkeys—are great P.R. events for certain politicians, then you probably fit a type, says Barry.
Barry says it’s only “liberal white folks” who are interested in disclosure rules for turkey giveaways. He added that it’s the same types who are interested in other good-government initiatives, like the city’s open meetings laws. “Look who led that,” Barry says, referring to the Washington Post editorial page.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery