Loose Lips

Bowser Defends Corporate Giving, And Lots of It

Last summer, Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown showed Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells who was boss by stripping Wells of his beloved transportation committee. A side effect of the move was a game of musical committee chairs that left Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser in charge of the government operations committee. And that meant Bowser was in charge of crafting the council's recently passed ethics legislation.

Talk about lucky. That perch has allowed Bowser to be front and center on the most talked-about  issue in city government, and in a good way. Bowser's legislation, though far from perfect, gives her plenty of cover to escape much of the ethical taint currently attached to D.C. politics. That should serve Bowser well in her re-election bid this April and perhaps beyond. (Bowser is on some people's short list of potential mayoral candidates for 2014.)

But being the face of the ethics legislation also puts a target on your back. The not-so-subtle subtext of the recently launched ballot initiative to ban corporate donations to political campaigns is that Bowser failed to clean up the perceived—or real?—culture of pay-to play in D.C.

"There is never the moment when the council will step forward," says Bryan Weaver, one of the leaders of the initiative effort.

And Max Skolnik, who is challenging Bowser for the Ward 4 seat, recently put out a press release charging that 37.5 percent of Bowser's total donations since 2006 have come from "big-time developers, corporate bundlers and high-powered lobbyists." Skolnik also accused Bowser of being "willing to auction off our government to the highest bidder." LL doesn't know about that last part, but Bowser's campaign finance reports certainly show that, like most incumbents, she doesn't have problems raising money (almost $220,000, at last count), mostly from the usual deep-pocketed donors who routinely give to local political campaigns.

Bowser says she's still working on ethics reform, and tackling problems associated with campaign finance is next on her list. But today on the Kojo Nnamdi Show she made clear that she's not a fan of banning corporate donations, arguing that it would make it harder to keep track of where campaign money is coming from.

"It's really antithetical to what we want to do," Bowser said, noting that the ban on corporate giving at the federal level hasn't worked so well. LL is skeptical of the idea that allowing shell corporations to donate money serves a good-government interest. But LL is equally skeptical that a ban on corporate donations would even put a dent in how much the District's monied interests put into political campaigns, since family members or employees could give the money instead of LLCs.

Bowser also gave a strong defense of her own fundraising prowess, saying she's "very proud" to raise money from her constituents, both individuals and corporations alike, and makes "no apologies" for raising huge gobs of dough. She also said, for the record, that donations don't buy her vote.

LL's hunch is that most of the rest of the council, save Wells, will likely be sharing Bowser's opposition to banning corporate donors. After all, where else would the money come from?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • please help us

    of course she approves of this money because they pay her and she votes yes for anything and everything any of those people come before the council with. bowser is brought and paid for just like some of the others. don't be fooled her stuff is just still covered up harry thomas did it his way, she is doing illegal stuff as well her way she is just covering and cleaning hers up better.

  • truth hurts

    I'm disappointed in Bowser's stance, just as I am with virtually the entire council (and the mayor). If DC's elected pols are serious about earning the public's trust, they need to show it by doing the following: 1) banning donations from lobbyists; 2) banning donations from entities that receive DC govt contracts; 3) banning donations from businesses, eg, corps, partnerships, sole proprietors, PACs; and 4) banning bundled donations.

    Anything less simply will result in more of the same. And the public will rightly continue to distrust elected pols.

    If they won't fix this mess legislatively, the people should do it via referendum. Take a stand, folks. Sign the petition.

  • Drez

    Bowser is the best. And the best that Ward 4 will elect.
    The others are either unelectable (why is Max Quixote running?) or worse (thank GOD Kieth Jarrel dropped out).

  • ward4

    LOL! This is exactly why DC will never, ever get statehood or REAL representation in congress. These delusional, self-serving, get fat local pols are horrible. Bowser is a do nothing and has been embarrassment to ward 4 since Fenty plucked her from her ANC position almost 5 years ago.

    Ward 4, see what happens when everybody was drinking the green Kool-Aid in 2007, Fenty could do know wrong, he got to pick his successor...BIG MISTAKE, ward 4. Now not only does Bowser think she should be re-elected but she thinks she can be Mayor in 2014?? Bowser is delusional! Please ask her about record and accomplishments, she has nothing to talk about. Her money comes from Fenty's donors that want another bite at the apple. We said no to Fenty, now its time to say NO to Bowser. Just because you put a yellow stripe on your green signs does not mean you are brand new, she is still the same do nothing council member we have had for 4+years now!!

    Anybody but Bowser!

    @drez..."the best"- what are you smoking? you must be on her payroll, cause even FOLKS that are supporting her admit she's horrible but for their business reasons (ie, contracts with the city, arrangements, tax abatements(see Donnatelli),etc they betting on her.

  • Jack in Ward 4

    @ ward 4, who is better than Bowser. The lady is really a pretty good councilmember... she DOES HER JOB, gets results for Ward 4, she does not embarass us, she is accesible to residents, business owners. What more do you want from her? BTW, what have you done ???/

  • Ward4

    @JackinWard4- to answer your question, ANYBODY is better than Bowser!! Jack, you need get out around the ward more. What results? "She does not embarrass us".... LOL. Were you at the Ward 4 mayor's forum in August 2010? If not, ask somebody who was there? Or look it up on Youtube. She made an A$$ out of herself and embarrassed the entire ward. She was questioning our older folks about their voting credentials.... Really, Yes really, questioning folks at a straw poll. Your council member!! And inside the forum Bowser was screaming like some crazy person..."Fact", "Fact" LOL. Oh but she is not embarrassing, wrong! Accessibility is crappy, some folks say ok, others say she does not respond after several attempts. She picks and chooses to what she wants to respond too, not good! You are paid to respond to all residents concerns. Business owners, really which ones, how is Upper Georgia Ave doing since Walter Reed closed? How is Kennedy street? What about 14th St ? What is her plan for business development in ward 4? And don't tell me Walmart(s), according to her she didnt know anything about them coming to ward 4.....At this point, we want nothing from her but to get out of office. We need real leadership, not handpicked place holders. She does not have the capacity for the job. Fenty pulled a good one and got her in, but this green party is over.
    Finally, I have invested my time, money and energy in making ward 4 and DC better and will continue. And thats a fact, Jack! LOL

  • Drez

    Than I guess you should have run yourself. As it is, she'll win by double digits.

  • Kappa Nupe

    I will not be voting for Muriel Bowser, Baruti Jahi, or any of the candidates running for the Ward 4 council seat. None of these individuals aren't worth voting for. I will sit out the next election because the lessor of the two evils is non sense.

    Ward 4 Resident
    16th Street Heights

  • NE John

    Just another asswhole like the rest of them

  • NE John

    What do they need money for? Seriously, write lame ass bills, talk a lot of shit at meetings. They do not need any fuking contributions. DO YOUR FUKNG JOBS!

  • ward4

    @drez- Not my calling but we need to hold our elected officials to better standards. She will lose, watch!

  • jimbo

    Except for Tommy Wells? He'll do what the rest of them do. No character there, all posing.

  • Black Omega

    I live in Ward 5 and I too am disgusted with politician. I will not vote in the D.C. election and in the Presidential election. What's the purpose in voting, if the politician is self serving and corrupt? I agree, the two of the lessor evils are non sense and many citizens will not vote period. We are tired of politicians being professional liars. However, Muriel Bowser will get re-elected because her supporters will come out to vote, while other voters sit on their behind by not voting.

  • councilworker

    bowser is the worst even the other council member feel that way..even some on her staff feel that way. she may respond to some, but she does not respond to all and for this to be 125k part-time position she certainly has time to respond to all. she has been in office for 2 terms and hasn't do anything to get the 2 high school (only 2) in her ward done...but all the other schools in DCPS are finished. her own neighborhood she dismisses.
    but the very sad part is nobody good is running against her so she might win, but what kind of woman wants to win by default and not on merit...BOWSER that's who. and she will continue to collect all the corporate dollars and vote in favor of everything they need at each and every council hearing regardless of what the residents want or need.

  • deborah

    Muriel Bowser is the best Councilmember for ward-4, believe me I don't want just anyone representing me. Muriel has class, she is smart, articulate and knows the issues in her ward. We have more new schools and recreation centers than any other ward. I am extremely pleased with Muriel Bowser as my Councilmember. Thanks Muriel for staying above the fray.

  • daheyell

    As a longtime Ward 4 resident who lives in the same ANC area as Bowser, I can attest to her being indifferent, arrogant and non-responsive to many constituents while serving as past ANC commissioner and as current councilmember. That is actually an objective assessment because I truly wanted to give her a fair chance at a difficult job in an ethically-hosed city. But as hard as it is for some of her biggest supporters to hear, she is selectively representing the ward and like many politicos, she has mastered the art of knowing how to "fake it to make it".

  • LastStop

    Some you have a very low value of your vote and your legislative represenative. Although Bowser has been marginally effective, to suggest that she should win because her marginal effectiveness is perceived to be better than new leadership she should win. Yesterday's pioneers are todays District cynics.

  • michaeliceman

    @Last Stop I agree 100%.

    And for those talking about not voting. That's fine, but IMO, if you do not vote, you lose the right to complain about the clowns at the JAWB. Becuaes you refused to do something to change it.

  • daheyell

    @LastStop..I also agree with you. I'm not a subscriber to the philosophy of choosing the best of the worst. I'm hardly a Bowser supporter (didn't vote for her & won't vote for her), but tried to reach out to her as our duly elected councilmember. There are a few under-funded contenders (Judi Jones, Max Skolnik), who have better appeal because of their unsung outreach in what they have been doing long before deciding to campaign.

  • Calvin H. Gurley

    I have to agree with “Last Stop” and let me address Ms. Deborah.

    1. Walter Reed Hospital is closed and also its Georgia Avenue entrance to the campus. Georgia Avenue is where the Ward 4 small business retail community is located and it is hurting due to that gate closure. No action from Ward 4 MBowser.

    2. Ward 6 Tommy Wells and the Capitol Hill Cluster group stole Ward 4’s diamond – D.C. Youth Orchestra and placed it at Eastern HS. Granted, it is a new facility; however DCYO was founded in Ward 4 by a Takoma resident Maestro and operated in Ward 4 for 50 years. At least a strong Ward 4 Council person would have enacted an agreement with Tommy Wells to “lend” DCYO to Ward 6 until Coolidge HS is finally renovated. Ward 4 Councilmember does not care…not such agreement Wells stomped Bowser in her own ward. No backbone.

    3. Ward 4 Councilperson is on the board of WMATA; but she does not ride the Metro Subway or uses Metro Bus. Tom Sherwood also indicated she drives [her vehicle] to the WMATA board meetings.

    4. Coolidge and Roosevelt HS have been pushed back on Mr.Lew’s school modernization list of school renovations. Dunbar and Ballou HS schools have gotten in front of our two Ward 4 schools to undergo their renovations. No resentment or fight from our Ward 4 Councilmember.

    5. Two Afro-American “female” Council members sit on the D.C. Council. When Mayor Fenty disrespected and snubbed our African-American State Elder the honorable Dr. Dorothy Height along with elder Maya Angelou [to save Ms. Cora Master Barry’s Youth Tennis Program] only Councilwoman Yvette Alexander spoke up for our beloved Dr. Dorothy Height and scolded Adrian Fenty in the media.

    Bowser no word, no stance and no pride or respect for our honorable elder. MB did not stand up for another Black Female - Stateswoman who so happened to be world renowned with several presidential honors of service in the civil rights struggle… What makes you believe she [Bowser] will speak up for us…- in Ward 4.

    6. Problems with the school system- hey, the council created a second school system called Charter Schools. Thus far, no improvements in education…just an erasure test scandal. Problem with Council’s ethics and morals –hey, create a second Board of Election and Ethics office. This is the Council’s same lousy cookie cutter solution. ..create a second office of duplication of duty and responsibility.

    Now you have two [high salaried]ethics officials (and staff)selected by the mayor and confirmed by the council; but both [officials] do not have the back bone to enforce law against these elected officials. We are still at square”1” with this lousy Ethics Reform Law. Suckered punched by MB.

    Folks, M. Bowser is not the focus; it is the local media Wash.Post, N.W. Current , City Paper and others who are “holding” the cards. But, from the street level that I have traveled and canvassed…many residents are far as west of Rock Creek Park are ready for a change. I am the change they need and the voice that they deserve.

    Calvin GURLEY
    WARD 4 COUNCIL - 2012


    Sounds like Bowser is in trouble.

  • Drez

    Bowser's not running against some single idealized perfect candidate.
    She's running against a whole bunch of candidates, each of whom is more deeply flawed than she is.
    She'll win by double digits.

  • tony

    Muriel Bowser is the worst politician in this city for black folks. Clearly, she does well in supporting the interest on her white constituency. But, she has failed the black community miserably. She has elected to become a tool of big business. She has elected to become a major advocate for K. St lobbyist. All at the expense of the people who elected her. Thus, her support in the ward is at an all time low and she can and should be defeated. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bowser like Vincent Orange is a black politician who thinks that she can get elected by black folks and then uses her political power and influence for others. I have a strong hunch that Mrs. Bowser and Vincent Orange will suffer major defeats in this year's election. While, I hope that their replacement will be a black person with a strong grassroots background, it's very conceivable that the white boy Max in Ward 4 could win. It's just amazing how silly and stupid some of our black politicians are. I know that some white folks don't want to hear what I am saying, but so what! I have no intentions on stopping anytime soon. The truth of the matter is that black folks in this city must come to the realization that white folks want this city back. By which I mean, they want to be under white governance oppose to black governance. And, it's quite conceivable that they will soon get their wish. Once this occurs, the same black folks who get on this blog everyday and thumb their noses at black politicians will be the first ones to complain about how their life has really changed under white leadership. But, it will be too late. And the kind of Washington D.C. that many black folks have called home for generations will be no more!! WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE ON THE EARTH WHO ARE SO EAGER TO GIVE AWAY POLITICAL POWER!

  • LastStop

    Ward 4 deserves a legislative representative that is a bridge builder, not an isolationists within the Ward. It is strikingly sad that citizens have come to the point of settling for the better of the worst when it comes to local politians.

  • J.R. Oppenheimer

    I'm disappointed at some of these comments more than I am the article above. I expect moneyed interests to corrupt politicians. But if you look at the state of our city and you see the field of incumbents and you think the solution is to hold back your vote, you don't care. That is never the right option. Especially if you're a minority. No election is inevitable. We saw that in 2008 when a little-known senator from Illinois took on the Clinton machine and won the primary. Never short sell the power of your individual voice.