Anita Bonds pulls in heavy corporate donations

March 14, 2013

Nearly half of D.C. Council member Anita Bonds’ campaign funds over the past six weeks came from construction companies or their executives, according to a review of campaign finance documents.

Bonds, a council member pending the outcome of an April 23 at-large special election, is the corporate relations director at Fort Myer Construction, the District’s primary road-paving contractor.

According to documents released Tuesday, Bonds raised about $47,000 since late January for her campaign, and has $45,000 remaining in the bank.

Bonds’ fundraising got off to a slower start than most incumbents, partially because she is not collecting big checks from lobbyists and local business leaders who often fund incumbents’ campaign.

Bonds received about $20,000 since late January from more than a dozen contracting, paving and excavating firms, the documents show. Many of the donations came in the form of $1,000 checks, the maximum allowed in the at-large race.

It is not unusual for city candidates to raise money from their employers. It’s also routine for candidates to reach out to colleagues in similar industries for contributions. For example, Democratic candidate Matthew Frumin, an attorney, has collected thousands of dollars from fellow attorneys and law firms.

“Everyone on the council has a career and career associates and friends who donate to their campaigns,” said Bonds spokesman Jermaine L. House. “We wouldn’t suggest that, because of their careers, that their votes are compromised.”

Bonds is one of seven candidates vying for the citywide seat previously held by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D).

Bonds, the chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, also gathered numerous low-dollar contributions during the period. On Sunday, several dozen Democratic activists and women rallied behind her campaign at a $51 per-person fund-raiser.

Yet, Bonds is receiving sizeable corporate dollars at the same time the council is considering banning either donations or those from city contractors. Three of her opponents — Democrats Elissa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg and Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd — are refusing to accept corporate donations.

Bonds’ contributions from an industry that benefits from city contracts could also renew debate about whether she should keep her job at Fort Myer Construction if she wins the election.

When she sought the Democratic State Committee appointment for the at-large seat, Bonds suggested in a Washington Post interview that she would give up her job if she was selected. But after she won the committee’s support, Bonds said she would keep her job because her bosses did not see it as a conflict. She added that it was “chauvinistic” to suggest she should leave the firm, noting several council members hold second jobs.

House said Bonds’ actions on the councils will be “only be dictated by her constituency, the residents of the District and not any one donor or special interest group.”

“Anita Bonds has a long and storied career as an independent public servant,” House said. “It is to those people whom her commitment will remain.”

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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