- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Metro’s new $160,000-a-year chief information officer, Suzanne J. Peck, quietly has emerged a powerful political insider in recent years, sending at least $200,000 in political contributions to local, state and federal campaigns.

Since 1999, Mrs. Peck has contributed to dozens of politicians and their causes, from city school board and D.C. Council contests to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Philadelphia mayoral race, according to campaign-finance records.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Peck’s name surfaced in Philadelphia, where the city’s ethics board found she gave $20,000 in improper contributions to Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat running for mayor. Under a settlement deal, he must now return the money.

Through a lawyer, Mrs. Peck said the contribution to Mr. Fattah was not illegal and that the mayoral candidate did not admit wrongdoing under the settlement deal.

“It was more technical than anything,” said Mrs. Peck’s attorney, Robert Spagnoletti, who until last year had been the District’s attorney general.

He said Mrs. Peck gave a $20,000 contribution to Mr. Fattah’s exploratory committee, but the check came three days after he declared his candidacy. According to the ethics board, Mr. Fattah agreed to return the funds because his exploratory committee accepted the money after he officially declared his candidacy.

Giving mostly to Democratic candidates and causes, Mrs. Peck’s donations have gone largely to state and federal candidates in Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District.

Mrs. Peck became Metro’s new chief information officer last month, after earning $144,538 as chief technology officer for the D.C. government under former Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Before her work in public service, Mrs. Peck held high-ranking executive positions at Sallie Mae and Corestates Financial Corp., which is now Wachovia.

Mr. Spagnoletti said Mrs. Peck provides political donations to progressive candidates she thinks are good managers.

“The country has been good to her, and she believes in being good to the country,” he said.

Mrs. Peck has contributed heavily in Pennsylvania political campaigns, including high-profile gubernatorial and mayoral contests, as well as races that haven’t attracted much attention.

For example, she gave at least $10,000 in 2005 to “Friends of Don Cunningham,” a group for Mr. Cunningham, a Democrat who won the executive’s race in Lehigh County.

“It was a surprise,” said Mr. Cunningham’s opponent, Republican Jane Ervin. “I didn’t know who Suzanne Peck was. We tried to figure out why somebody from [the District] was giving such contributions in a race like this. She seems to have focused a lot of her activity in Pennsylvania.”

Miss Ervin said county executive races in Pennsylvania are sometimes considered a steppingstone for a statewide candidacy, such as governor.

In addition to the recent contribution to Mr. Fattah, Mrs. Peck also gave $5,000 to Philadelphia mayoral candidate Tom Knox. Mrs. Peck’s husband, Paul, also gave $5,000 to Mr. Knox.

Locally, Mrs. Peck gave $2,100 last year to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress; $2,000 to D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty; and $1,000 each to council members Phil Mendelson and David A. Catania.

In addition, Mrs. Peck last year gave $10,000 to the Democratic State Committee in Delaware and $7,900 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Though most of her contributions have gone to Democratic candidates and political action committees, Mrs. Peck gave $2,000 to President Bush’s campaign in 2003.

Federal Election Commission reports show Mrs. Peck gave $123,450 in campaign contributions since 1999, not including another $45,000 in “soft money” contributions to Democratic causes. She also gave more than $60,000 in Pennsylvania statewide contests, including at least $30,000 to Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat.

Mrs. Peck worked under Mr. Rendell briefly in 2003, when she took a temporary assignment running the state’s Office of Management and Productivity. Under the arrangement, she remained the District’s chief technology officer, but Pennsylvania agreed to compensate the District for costs related to her absences.

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