Loose Lips

Orange Goes to Bat for Campaign Donor Over Parking Meter Contract

Because of the high-stakes topic at hand, Mary Cheh made witnesses swear an oath to tell the truth. David Grosso considered abandoning his long-held opposition, just this once, to voting on city contracts. Monday's transportation committee hearing on the management of city parking meters, in other words, was more dramatic than usual.

 "This may be the type of mischief that arises from Council approval of contracts," Cheh lamented.

The alleged mischief-maker? At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who opposes giving the contract to Xerox and whose mayoral campaign, incidentally, took a bundled $20,000 from Rockville-based Xerox competitor WorldWide Parking last month.

Orange, who isn't a member of the transportation committee, showed up at the dais to oppose and echo WorldWide president Marc Meisel's demands that the contract should be rebid, with the savings potentially rerouted to education.

That's despite WorldWide losing its appeal to the Contract Appeals Board over the five-year, $33 million contract because the board found that, although its bid was lower than Xerox's, the Rockville firm couldn't match Xerox's ability to provide performance pricing.

Orange's advocacy on behalf of a recent campaign donor didn't go unnoticed, with Cheh asking Meisel why his company had given so money Orange (along with $5,000 to Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser and $18,000 to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who are also running for mayor). Meisel answered that he was just trying to support the candidates.

Orange replied with a political-influence question of his own, asking developer Pedro Alfonso, whose company is a Certified Business Enterprise partner with Xerox on the contract, what he intended to get out of his own donations to political candidates, including Orange. Alfonso said that if he had given $20,000 to a candidate, he definitely would expect some help with contracts.

Later, Alfonso, no stranger to political connection himself, lamented how brazenly he thought WorldWide and Orange worked together.

"Could you wait and get the councilmember to argue your case and then give him the money?" Alfonso said, adding that Orange's actions amounted to "painful prostitution."

Grosso echoed Alfonso's disappointment with Orange's opposition to the bill, which is headed for a full Council vote tomorrow. "Everything he's done is legal," Grosso said afterward. "That's the problem."

After the hearing, Orange defended his interest in the bill, saying that he's interested in the contract no matter who his campaign donors are. As evidence, he passed out a letter dated Aug. 8, 2012 that he had written about the contract—more than 15 months before he would receive the $20,000 from people and companies associated with WorldWide.

The letter may not make Orange look as disinterested as he claims, though. Two weeks before Orange wrote his letter alleging that the meter bid solicitation could have been botched, his 2012 at-large campaign received $6,000 in donations from companies sharing an address with WorldWide Parking.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • stick2yourguns

    Pay to Play Orange is at it again....Now I hope the rest of the council doen't get their hands as dirty as Orange already has. Even Stevie Wonder can see he was paid to get involved with this Rockville firm to try and take away this contract from a DC CBE.............shame on you vincent orange.

  • Pingback: Pay-to-play on full display?

  • truth hurts

    Imagine what 650k under the table could have bought them. Perhaps a Mariachi band serenading an Orange led congo line?

  • Zed

    The voters are apathetic. They don't care. If they did, they would clamor for a ban on corporate contributions to city campaigns. They don't. Businesses are pressured to donate to the campaigns of even the cleanest politicians by those politicians. Unless one is born to wealth or made a fortune in business, one has to rely on campaign donations to get elected. Outside of the most prosperous individuals, few can give more than small amounts, creating the opportunity for corporations to give large amounts - even if they don't want to do so. No one donates large amounts of money to any office-holder or office-seeker without expecting something in return. The corporations donating the funds do not always feel comfortable doing so, but there is an implied threat of not getting cooperation from that politician or city agencies if you don't contribute. It's a sick system of legalized bribery but the voters don't care and neither does the City Paper really or the CP would devote serious ink on a regular basis to the reporting of and analysis of campaign contributions to city contracts and favors, continually connecting the dots. Until that happens, articles like this are for entertainment purposes primarily and not a call for action.

  • truth hurts

    Zed is mostly right, with the exception of two council members: Grosso and Wells. From the outset, Grosso has declined corporate donations and declined to vote on large city contracts won through the competitive bidding process. And Wells' is the lone mayoral candidate not accepting corporate money.

  • citydude

    Pedro Alfonso went after this bid even though he is not even in that business. He is the Chairman of DC Housing Authority Board these days....Thanks to his fund raising abilities....DC is a place of strange bedfellows! Both sides are up to Pay to play..

  • Marvin E. Adams

    Just because it's legal, does it make it right? Slavery and Apartheid were "legal!"

  • FunnyReports

    The key piece to this article is:

    "That's despite WorldWide losing its appeal to the Contract Appeals Board over the five-year, $33 million contract because the board found that, although its bid was lower than Xerox's, the Rockville firm couldn't match Xerox's ability to provide performance pricing."

    This is interesting because it seems that the other company got screwed over in the past. This issue will always be touchy because I am sure that SOMEONE on the council has their hands in Xerox's pockets.

    Also, the article states that Bowser & Evans have both received contributions from that company as well.

    Pay to Play politics IMO = Councilmembers who have jobs outside of their roles on the DC Gov't.

    What's law is law, you do not get locked up for breaking what a human deems unlawful. You get locked up for breaking the LAW. Regardless of what people think is unlawful or not, you do not serve time because someone feels what you did was wrong. You serve time if you break a law that the system has in place.

    If that's not the case, then Gray should've been impeached or removed from Office right when news broke about his campaign..

  • Baby Truth

    This is certainly not the first time that Councilmember Orange has sought to act on behalf of this "small" business. They have also contributed mightily to some of his previous campaign efforts. Earlier this year, the Councilmember introduced legislation that would have mandated moving tour bus parking to the Marc Parc lot at Buzzard Point from Ward Five. Of course, it never went very far in Che's Committee -- especially since he wrote the legislation absent consultation with either DDOT or the neighbors who flooded his office with complaints.

    It seems to me that Orange's Committee comments of yesterday are a less than saavy move by a mayoral candidate who should be attempting to distance himself from repeating these kinds of ethical lapses.

    Well, at least it's a win for transparency.
    Mr. Orange: We see right through you.

  • name

    This *is* the DC that voters want.

  • John

    FunnyReports: In Nevada prostitution is legal. They don;t get locked up, but they're still prostitutes.

    At least they own it, unlike VO.

  • stick2yourguns

    Again I will say Bowser (and I am NO fan of her's) & Evans both did received funds for their campaign from World Wide Parking, but they both voted against World Wide Parking...so therefore nothing under the table was done. Many council members have received campaign funding from World Wide, but remember various businesses, lobbyist, and campaign fund raising folks go after this funding for them....99% of the time they do not do it on their own.

  • FunnyReports

    @John If we were judged off what was morally right vs. wrong, there would be alot of things that people would be penalized for without a shout of a doubt.

    You fail to understand that every councilmember has a company in their back pocket.


    if that doesn't tickle your fancy

    Harry Thomas, Marion Barry, and Kwame Brown threatened to take contracts from people who voted for Orange during the special appointment for Sekou Biddle.. ahaha that was the funniest power move to cut Orange off I have ever heard about.

    so.... it shows you that in politics everybody has an investment somewhere.

    I am sure if the councilmembers could depend on residents to raise that type of money, they would be involved in the political mix as well.

  • chris Hauser

    private parking lot people having control over public parking meters? really?

  • Southern Ave

    @BabyTruth first everyone complained about how Small Businesses are losing contracts to bigger companies that have ties with other councilmembers. As soon as someone vouches for a small business, its foul play?

    I am not surprised at the current state of DC. Voters don't even know why or what they are voting for smh.

  • 16th Street

    I am glad Orange is the scapegoat for all the corrupt things in DC. Makes it easier for Bowser & Evans to get a pass for all the things they do to us DC residents!

  • NativeDClady

    Chairman on the DC Housing Authority is a volunteer position it is not his job, He is a Washington, DC business owner. Shame on Councilmember Vincent Orange and WorldWide for wasting the Council's time. Why would Vincent Orange support a Maryland firm vs a DC firm when he is running for Mayor of DC??? Strange isn't it!