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D.C. funds for needy used more for perks
Council member calls for closing accounts
Constituent service funds have often gone repeatedly to the same vendors, sometimes closely connected to the world of D.C. politics. Since 2004, they have financed $230,000 for “Catering/Refreshments,” reports show, including $42,000 to Imani Catering, a firm owned by Lamont B. Mitchell, who worked as an aide to former Mayor Anthony A. Williams in the early 2000s.
“I’ve been doing City Council work since 1997 I know all of them,” said Mr. Mitchell. “I used to do it for the council breakfast and picnics, and some comes from the city coffers. I don’t distinguish how they’re paying for it.”
The amount paid to Mr. Mitchell’s company alone was similar to the total paid to Pepco to assist needy residents with keeping their lights on.
Meanwhile, more than $40,000 went to hired consultants and $7,000 to bank fees. Thousands was disbursed as petty cash and more than $50,000 in disclosed payments was simply listed as paying credit card bills.
Much of the remainder was spent on advertising, printing and postage, which can keep citizens informed about goings on in the city but also indicate that boosting a candidate’s name recognition is a prime function of the funds.
Legislation proposed by Ms. Bowser and considered Wednesday would cap funds raised at $40,000 per year instead of the current $80,000. But like most members, one must go far down the list of top recipients of Ms. Bowser’s fund to find charitable contributions. Fifty thousand dollars was paid to political consultants Bynum Thompson Ryer, including for printing costs; $15,000 in checks over three years were written to Ms. Bowser herself, and in third place was Mixology Bartending Services, with a $10,500 tab.
The largest nonprofit recipient, a dance school known as the Davis Center, received $4,500 in payments marked “fundraiser” and “scholarship” — and Brandon Todd, who works for the City Council as Ms. Bowser’s community outreach director, is on its faculty.
Ms. Bowser’s office did not respond to requests for an explanation.
The Washington Times harnessed detailed expenditure records for all constituent service funds from the antiquated PDF format in which they and campaign contributions are disclosed — the correction of which is not addressed in proposed ethics reforms — and assembled them in a database. The data includes payments since 2004, omitting a few reports submitted using an old system.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.
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