- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

City activists are criticizing D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ proposal to give $250,000 to his successor for transition costs, funds that likely will add to the already bulging campaign war chest of Democratic nominee Adrian M. Fenty.

“I firmly believe, as do others, that by Tuesday [Mr.] Fenty will have in excess of a million dollars cash in hand,” said Dorothy Brizill, executive director of government watchdog group D.C. Watch. “I think it’s frankly obscene to ask citizens to underwrite his transition when he’s sitting on such a large kitty.”

Mr. Williams’ proposal would provide funds for expenses such as travel, consulting services and transition staff salaries for the incoming mayor, who will be inaugurated Jan. 2.

Activists say the costs should come out of Mr. Fenty’s campaign funds, which have grown by about $800,000 since September’s primary election.

Mr. Fenty, the Ward 4 representative on the D.C. Council, has raised more than $3.5 million for his mayoral campaign and has more than $874,000 still on hand, according to latest campaign finance reports.

Because Democrats account for about 74 percent of registered D.C. voters, the winner of the primary usually prevails in the general election.

D.C. law does not allow unused campaign funds to be spent on transition costs, officials said.

However, candidates can use the money to establish a constituent services fund.

A source close to Mr. Fenty said he likely will set up a constituent services fund after the election.

During a hearing this week, Mr. Williams told the council that he plans to amend his proposal to provide additional funds for items such as council staff salaries.

Mrs. Brizill said the mayor should attach an amendment allowing campaign funds to be used for the mayoral changeover.

“You could make the argument that the transition is the final [step] in the election process,” she said.

Mr. Fenty could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a source close to his campaign said he would favor such an amendment.

“I think that would be something we would be amenable to, but it hasn’t come to us in any form,” the source said. “It kind of makes sense.”

Mr. Williams received a transition budget of $160,000 when he succeeded Marion Barry after the 1998 election, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

He spent $103,449.52 on items such as staff salaries, equipment rental and printing of reports, and reduced the public cost of the transition by raising $79,025 from private donors.

Williams spokesman Vincent Morris said the mayor likely would be willing to talk to the council if its members wanted to explore an amendment, but he stressed that the transition money is necessary to ensure a smooth change of administrations.

“Whenever there’s been a mayor leaving and a new mayor coming in, we’ve always used the government to help smooth that transition,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s really a small amount of money in the big scheme of things.”

Mr. Williams’ proposal also would provide $150,000 in transition costs for the incoming council chairman. Council member Vincent C. Gray of Ward 7 is the Democratic nominee for that seat.

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