- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2007

When D.C. Council member Jack Evans gathered supporters earlier this year to raise money for his constituent-services fund, he spoke of how donations helped people struggling to pay their rent and helped send local children to camps.

But the majority of the donations went for tickets to sporting events, public records show.

For the first three months of the year, Mr. Evans‘ constituent-services fund spent $15,828, with $4,000 going to the Washington Nationals for season tickets and $7,350 for Wizards tickets, according to filings with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, yesterday said the purchases are nothing new and that all of the tickets go to community organizations, volunteers and civic groups, though he said the office doesn’t maintain a list of recipients.

“It’s been going on for 12 years, and we give them to constituents,” Mr. Evans said. “We give them out to schools.”

From funeral assistance to Nationals tickets, D.C. elected officials are given broad discretion in how they spend their constituent-services money. The special accounts cannot be used for political purposes but rather for the “general welfare” of constituents.

If one council member gets his way, elected officials soon will have more money to spend.

Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, in January introduced legislation that would more than double the $40,000 fundraising cap, which has been in place for more than 30 years.

Keith Perry, chief of staff for Mr. Barry, said the money is typically spent on helping residents stave off eviction, pay utility bills and send schoolchildren on class trips.

“It’s for people who are literally in trouble in some way,” Mr. Perry said.

In one recent quarter, Mr. Barry spent about $4,400, including $950 for catering and $1,060 for “state of ward” banners. Mr. Barry’s account also shows numerous donations for funeral assistance and scholarship programs.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty gave donations of more than $900 each to a dozen community groups, including the Latin American Youth Center soccer league and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

And former Mayor Anthony A. Williams used money remaining in his account for the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, $6,700; and the Recreational Wish List Committee, $10,093, according to Mr. Williams’ disclosure report.

Mr. Evans, a co-sponsor of Mr. Barry’s legislation, said his constituent-services fund has been purchasing sporting-event tickets since 1996.

“Sometimes, we give them to silent auctions,” he said, “Or to somebody who helped clean up part of the ward.”

Kathy Williams, an attorney for the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, which regulates the funds, said officials have been conducting regular audits of the constituent-service accounts for the past three years.

Last year, the auditors at the Campaign Finance Office requested a list of people who received sporting-event tickets through Mr. Evans‘ now-defunct political action committee.

The recipients included Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy and attorney William Schweitzer.

In January, Mr. Fenty attended a fundraiser for Mr. Evans‘ constituent-services fund, saying the money is used for youth programs and for people who don’t have enough money to buy their children shoes and uniforms.

“The money makes a huge difference,” Mr. Fenty said.

“It raises money, and it goes to assist people in the ward and throughout the city,” Mr. Evans told supporters at the Hotel Palomar event, which was videotaped and later posted on the Internet by a local advisory neighborhood commissioner (http://anc2c02.com/anc/JackEvansFundraiser.html).

“Sometimes, people are behind in their rent. It goes to pay for trips to send children to camp,” he said.

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