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February 5, 2014

Serious Candidates

Dear Voters:

So far, which Democratic mayoral candidates are the public taking seriously? Based on their performances at candidate forums, most candidates in this race fail the first test of a candidate, the Roger Mudd question. In 1980, Ted Kennedy was prepared to enter the Democratic primaries to challenge president Jimmy Carter, whom most experts judged to be very vulnerable. But in his first major television interview in the race, Kennedy was asked an extremely softball question by Roger Mudd, “Why do you want to be president?” Kennedy was stumped. He stumbled and mumbled and stammered. He couldn’t come up with a good reason why he wanted to be president or what he would do with the office that Carter wouldn’t, and his campaign fell apart on that day.

At their public appearances, most candidates, including the mayor himself, haven’t come up with clear, convincing, and compelling reasons why they want to be mayor, or what they would do in the office that no one else could do. They haven’t shown that fire in the belly — that distinguishes them from their competitors.

Here’s who has shown some advantages. At candidate forums, Andy Shallal has shown more skill than experienced councilmembers in coming up with political approaches that appeal to the whole crowd, and not just to the supporters he brought to the forum to cheer him on. Muriel Bowser has shown more organizing skills than the other candidates; she led in the straw polls held in Ward 8 and 4. She hasn’t had enough strength, even in her own Ward 4, to win straw polls by a clear and convincing margin, or by enough votes to get the ward Democratic organizations’ endorsements, but she has shown enough strength to embarrass Mayor Gray by keeping him to second place finishes. Mayor Gray’s supporters at the candidate forums have been limited largely to employees of the executive office of the mayor, not even to DC government employees more generally.

Gary Imhoff


Campaign Finance 2014, Part I
Dorothy Brizill,

Last Friday, all candidates in the April primary election in the District were required to file their financial reports with the DC Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), detailing all their campaign receipts (i.e., contributions) and expenditures through January 31. To date, most reports in the press (for example, have reviewed and discussed the fundraising reports in terms of a horse race among the candidates for mayor largely by detailing how much each candidate has raised and expended during the reporting period of December 11, 2013, through January 31 (Vincent Gray, $627,000; Jack Evans, $198,000; Muriel Bowser, $166,000; Tommy Wells, $90,000; Vincent Orange, $43,000; Andy Shallal, $103,000; Reta Jo Lewis, $52,000; and Carlos Allen, $3,497).

According to the District’s campaign finance laws and regulations, the reports of receipts and expenditures (R and E reports) for campaign committees are required to detail “all financial transactions.” Over the years, I have frequently complained to the Office of Campaign Finance and testified before the city council that the R and E reports filed by candidates are seldom complete and accurate accountings of all funds and resources (for example, rental space, manpower, and telephone banks) used by campaigns. Thus, when reviewing R and E reports, it is important to note not only the contributions and expenditures that are reported, but also the expenditures that should be reported but are not detailed at all, or are reported at an unrealistically low dollar figure.

The campaign finance report filed on January 31 by the Vince Gray 2014 Committee is a classic example of how campaigns in the District file OCF reports that fail to capture their finances accurately. The Gray filing is noteworthy for what it doesn’t report. It indicates salary payments to a host of individuals (including Kouri Marshall, who served for a brief period as deputy campaign manager), but reports no salary payment or reimbursement for expenses to Chuck Thies, who serves as the campaign manager, treasurer, and chief procurement officer for the Gray campaign. It also fails to indicate any payment to Elizabeth D. Leith, whose home is the campaign’s official address and who serves as the campaign’s accountant and “compliance officer,” or to Stephen Glaude, who is working for the Gray campaign as its political director while on leave from his DC government position as Director of Community Affairs in the Executive Office of the Mayor. Also missing from the OCF R and E report is any indication of a payment to Ronald Lester or Lester and Associates who, according to sources, has been engaged to do a poll for the Gray campaign. Perhaps the most egregious omission from Gray’s OCF filing is the cost of campaign materials and paraphernalia (posters, flyers, yard signs, stickers, and palm cards) that the campaign has been using and distributing over the past few weeks since Gray entered the mayoral race. (The OCF filing indicates a $2,500 payment to Robert King for “printing,” but in telephone conversations with King and Thies they both acknowledged that King had not done any printing for the campaign, and that this was a “clerical error.” King is under contract to assist the campaign solely in its get-out-the-vote effort by delivering senior citizens to events and the polls. While acknowledging the error in the report with regard to King, Thies was not forthcoming with regard to the printing costs incurred by the campaign.) Finally, Gray’s finance report fails to account for the costs associated with the campaign’s headquarters at 1522 Rhode Island Avenue, NE, for example rent, utilities, office supplies, and equipment.

Given the controversy surrounding the financing of Gray’s 2010 campaign, citizens are entitled to expect that his 2014 campaign will make an extra effort to report all of its donations and expenditures fully and accurately.


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