Loose Lips

Loose Lips Daily: People Addicted to Little Oversight Edition

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Good morning, sweet readers! BREAKING (as they say on the Internets) just as this LL Daily made its way to LL's editor: Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh endorses Vincent Gray for mayor, a dagger for Mayor Adrian Fenty's fading hopes of a second term, as Cheh represents the very people Fenty needs on Sept. 14—west-of-the-park white voters. Check back on the LL blog soon for an update.

Meanwhile, another Thursday, another column. This week's edition features revelations that Councilmembers Harry Thomas Jr. and Michael A. Brown have their eyes on Kwame Brown's at-large seat, and has info on the soft landing the Fenty administration provided for Clark Ray after they canned him. Also, don't miss Lydia DePillis' cover story on the next DDOT director, David Alpert. (Also, don't hold LL to that one.)

People Addicted to Public Funding With Little Oversight: So what's the deal with Peaceoholics? If you've ever asked yourself that questions, then you cannot miss this piece by Washington City Paper's Rend Smith and Jason Cherkis. S & C's look at Mayor Adrian Fenty's favorite anti-youth violence group will almost certainly be met with a Ron Moten-produced song rebuttal.

Tidbits to note:

"This year, copies of city contracts show Peaceoholics got $500,000 in federal cash through the District’s Justice Grants Administration, which doesn’t need council approval. The contract lists only broad categories that Peaceoholics planned to spend the money on: $99,000 for personnel; $16,830 for 'fringe benefits'; $11,000 on travel; $4,500 for supplies; $7,000 for equipment. A full $251,000 was earmarked for 'contracts/consultants,' with no further explanation in the document. Under 'other,' they listed $110,170 in expenses.

A source familiar with dealings within DYRS says the grant was part of a larger plan: Fenty wanted Peaceoholics to receive $900,000 for the year: '$500,000 from JGA, and $400,000 from DYRS.' Last month, Washington City Paper reported Fenty was pushing DYRS and the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Corporation to find the other $400,000. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the committee that oversees DYRS, says the administration dropped the effort once it became public.'"

NB: The $400,000 payment to Peaceoholics has been reported before (originally by City Paper, and then by the Examiner) but this is the first time LL has seen anyone say on the record that Fenty backed off the payment after it became public.

"Still, Fenty started pushing for the group to get funding, former DYRS staffers say, and Attorney General Peter Nickles joined in. 'They so much had the mayor’s ear and Peter’s ear,' recalls one former agency official. 'Pressure went way up.' Top DYRS officials—including then-Director Vinny Schiraldi—resisted handing Peaceoholics easy money.

During one meeting, former staffers say Nickles ordered Schiraldi to give Peaceoholics a no-bid contract, saying the order came from Fenty. It had to be done. '[DYRS staffers] thought they were full of shit, that they were just political puffers—that they were getting a grant not because of their work, but because they were loud,' one former agency employee says. 'They were wired to the Fenty administration.' (Nickles says the conversation 'never happened' that way, and he 'never advocated for a no-bid contract' for Peaceoholics.)"

AFTER THE JUMP: The Michelle Effect; Name Confusion; Council Endorsements...

The Michelle, No, Not That Michelle, Effect:  The biggest news coming out of yesterday's hour-long mayoral debate at the Newseum, which was almost completely overshadowed by the attack on the Discovery Channel, was Michelle Fenty's emotional defense of her husband to reporters. (See our brief clip here.) "It hurts. This is his city, and these are his people,' she said, surrounded by reporters standing to the side of the stage. 'It's so painful to hear that people think he's arrogant. As his wife, I'm here to tell you it's absolutely not true," report Tim Craig and Ann Marimow in the Post. DCist's Martin Austermuhle has this near instanalysis: "That she was even speaking to the media was news in and of itself, but that she appeared so emotional in defending her husband was really something to watch. Any motivations aside, her comments and the emotion behind them highlight that, despite what many in the District seem to think, Fenty is a loving family man who cares for the community around him. Some cynics pointed out that the emotion she showed coincided nicely with the Fenty campaign's new strategy of openly admitting fault and promising a kinder, gentler Mayor Fenty should he win re-election. Others argued that much like Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's wife, who broke down during a confirmation hearing, the personal intensity of the mayoral campaign may just have gotten to her. In the end, will this matter? While Fenty delivered a strong closing statement in which he admitted to his personal failings, its delivery with less than two weeks left in the campaign may not be enough to close a gap that has grown to as large as 17 points. Then again, every election has its one moment, and this may have been it. Michelle Fenty's emotional defense of her husband could be enough to balance off her husband's aloofness, one of the traits that so quickly lost him popular support over the last four years."

More from C & M: "'If you do not find it in your hearts to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will have no one to blame but myself,' Fenty said at the end of a one-hour debate with challenger Vincent C. Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, at the Newseum. ... But Fenty's decision to apologize to former supporters, a strategy that began two weeks ago, has overtaken the message many observers say he should be stressing to connect with voters: his record of improving schools, cutting the homicide rate and streamlining city services. During the hour-long debate, Gray said Fenty's apology was not 'a change of heart, it's a change of strategy.' The chairman presented himself as a mature leader who would work to repair the hard feelings caused by what he said were the mayor's shortcomings, including a go-it-alone approach"

The Examiner's Freeman Klopott adds this: "Despite his need to bridge the racial divide, Fenty didn't use the word 'race' until nearly 20 minutes into the hour-long debate when he was asked if it hurts that black voters don't like him. 'Anybody who says they don't want someone of their own race and background to like them, you've gotta think about and yes, of course, it hurts,' he said."

TBD frames the debate as a lover's quarrel. See also, the Times, MyFoxDC, the G-Town Dish.

Educate Yourself: Cheers to the Post's Bill Turque, who does a masterful job fact-checking the education-related parts of the debate.

What's In a Name?: The Post's David Montgomery takes a look at the at-large race where Michael D. Brown is poised to upset incumbent Phil Mendelson. Best vignette in there: "Next, Brown greets Sandra Seegars, a political activist in Ward 8 who watched Brown in action at the Ward 8 Democrats' endorsement vote and a Congress Heights political forum. 'I'm changing my name to Diana Ross so I can win,' says Seegars, a Mendelson supporter. 'People are voting for you because they think you're Michael Brown.'" Also, Lou Chibbaro Jr. asks in the Blade if the LGBT vote can "rescue" Mendo.

We'll Pass: Mendelson may have appreciated the press from Montgomery's story, but likely wasn't as pleased with the Post's editorial page telling voters that no candidate in the at-large race is worth a damn. "Mr. Mendelson has received our endorsement in the past, although with reservations. In 2002, we faulted him for making tasks more difficult than need be; four years ago we called his term disappointing and his leadership lacking. Essentially we picked Mr. Mendelson as the better of a bad choice. Once again this year he is blessed with flawed rivals. But his record doesn't justify another term. Mr. Mendelson's contributions—notably the revision of city gun laws and his leadership on marriage equality—are outweighed by what we see as a timidity, even a pandering, in his governing. He voted against mayoral control of schools; while he professes to back Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and her reforms, he's done little to support her important work. His oversight of executive functions, such as emergency services, has remained disappointing, and he's been a naysayer on too many initiatives to combat crime. Mr. Ray has run an energetic campaign built on his roots in the community, but disappointingly he has not made a good case for his candidacy. On a variety of issues—from school reform to public safety—he tries to be all things to all people. Mr. Brown's main issue is advocacy for D.C. statehood. He belatedly entered the race, has barely campaigned and seems to be benefiting in large part from people confusing him with council member Michael A. Brown (I). We are making no endorsement in this at-large race."

The editorial page also endorsed Jim Graham, Tommy Wells, and Ward 5 challenger Delano Hunter over incumbent Harry Thomas Jr.

Gray Just as Bad at Following the Law as Fenty: LL missed this interesting story yesterday in the Times by Jeffery Anderson. It turns out that Gray is just as crappy at answering FOIAs as the Fenty administration and every other politician in the world is. LL is still waiting on a FOIA he filed with Sarah Palin's administration when he worked in Alaska, TWO YEARS ago. And some FOIAs LL filed with the supposedly good government of Montgomery County took more than six months to be answered. Don't get LL started on FOIAs.

Don't know if anyone had time to watch D.C. Council Chairman challengers Kwame Brown and Vincent Orange debate, but TBD has a recap.

Councilmember Mary Cheh is on DuPuyt.

Mike Panetta gets the Politico treatment.

Pols celebrate CityMarket groundbreaking  [WBJ]

Giant at 3rd and H? [WBJ]