Sucking up. Currying favor. Helping out an old friend. Paying back a debt. There are lots of reasons for contributing to political campaigns. But LL is most fascinated by the inexplicable contributions that come in during the waning days of primary season.
•On Sept. 9, Charles E. Smith and related companies contributed $10,000 to mayoral primary winner Adrian Fenty. The creator of Crystal City and manager of properties all over the District has never been magnanimous when it comes to supporting D.C. pols. But three days before the election, the king of local commercial and residential real estate saw the writing on the wall. Five checks for $2,000 from various Smith LLCs came in just as the Fenty victory parade was gearing up.
•On Sept. 6, former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater gave $1,000 to Michael A. Brown. For some contributors, loyalty is everything. There wasn’t much point in giving money to Brown during the last month of his short-circuited campaign, unless you are a family friend. One day after Slater’s contribution, Brown withdrew from the race. But Slater still had a champion: He had already given Marie Johns a grand back in June.
•On Sept. 8, the Lerner family donated $1,500 to council chairman candidate and Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson. Patterson’s switch on the stadium deal finally paid off for her just before her ill-fated showdown with Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray. She voted against the deal in 2004 but backed the lease agreement that ultimately landed the Nats in Southeast. D.C.’s first family of baseball, Mark and Judy Lerner, must have figured Patterson deserved some kind of pat on the back.
•When Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans walked down the steps of the John A. Wilson Building Monday to join the city’s next mayor at a press conference, he signaled the definitive political surrender to his Ward 4 colleague, Fenty.
As he approached the microphones, Evans waved his BlackBerry.
In one clean and shameless moment, Evans went from being the sharpest public critic of the youthful mayor-apparent to a solid backer of the two-BlackBerrys-wearing Fenty. “I’m trying to turn it on,” quipped Evans, who joked that “my first message was congratulating him.”
If the city needed any more evidence that radical change is afoot, Evans’ embrace of hand-held messaging technology provided it. “Today was definitely his first public appearance with the BlackBerry,” says Evans spokesperson Sean Metcalf.
Evans made the Fenty-BlackBerry connection part of D.C.’s political lore nearly two years ago, when he attempted to paint the hand-held messaging device as a symbol of Fenty’s inability to focus on serious matters. “There are colleagues of mine...who sit in the corner and play with their BlackBerrys and don’t participate at all,” he said on WAMU’s D.C. Politics Hour in November 2004. “Is that who you want to run your city?”
Based on Fenty’s results from Sept. 12, the answer is a resounding yes.
After the press conference, Evans had no trouble explaining how he expunged the Fenty-bashing from his memory chips. “That was before Tuesday,” Evans says in reference to his pre-election Fenty hammering and the electoral stomping of Evans’ friend and colleague Linda Cropp. “I’m very excited to work with Adrian.”
•The Fenty team may be basking in the glow of political hero worship, but it’s not all glamour. Now the presumptive mayor-elect has to handle a wave of political job seekers.
The Sept. 18 press conference was a typical event for the mayor-to-be. Failed Ward 3 candidate Bill Rice was on hand. The political junkie didn’t even try to hide his motivation for being there: “I’m looking for a job,” he said. Also in attendance: Rob Redding, former Washington Times reporter and press agent for mayoral candidate Michael A. Brown. He handed out a package of material about his skills and waited almost 30 minutes for council chair apparent Gray to finish talking to reporters before introducing himself. —James Jones
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