Heavy Hitters Contributing To Fenty's Reelection Bid

The Washington Post's David Nakamura discusses D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's well-funded reelection campaign. Video by News Channel 8/WJLA-TV 7
By David Nakamura and Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, whose populist 2006 campaign was spurred by a record number of small donations, is now raising large sums for his reelection effort from a bevy of developers and law firms and a handful of Wall Street titans.

Fenty's haul of more than $2 million in his first filing with the city's campaign finance office comes more than 1 1/2 years before the September 2010 primary and could scare off potential challengers. Three months after launching his reelection committee, Fenty (D) is more than halfway to the record $3.8 million he raised in 2006, much of which was donated after he defeated Linda W. Cropp in the primary.

But the source of much of the money is even more remarkable. On the strength of three big fundraising events, Fenty has raked in cash from the community of business interests that once doubted his commitment to the kind of broad economic development favored by his predecessor, Anthony A. Williams (D).

"People who were not taking our phone calls then are taking them now," said James Hudson, who is resuming his 2006 role as Fenty's campaign chairman. "A lot of people who were difficult to get money from before are more amenable. The key difference is that he's the mayor of the city. His support will stretch to a much larger pool."

Developer Raymond Ritchey, who oversees the D.C. office of Boston Properties, gave Fenty $2,000, and employees from his company contributed $4,000. In 2006, Ritchey gave $1,500 to Cropp before the primary, then wrote a check for $800 to Fenty for the general election, according to D.C. government campaign finance records.

Ritchey said yesterday that he donated to Fenty because "the same energy and enthusiasm and fresh approach that Obama has brought to us in the last three weeks, Mayor Fenty has brought to us in the last three years. He has a youthful and vibrant focus on the city. Those of us in the real estate community respond to this new dynamic leadership."

The newfound corporate support has changed the tone and feel of the Fenty campaign, which in 2006 used a door-to-door strategy to drum up votes and small donations. And it has some wondering whether Fenty has ignored his base electorate of working-class residents.

Joslyn Williams, president of the Metro Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, said the union has chafed at Fenty's governing style, including the administration's firing of workers in city agencies, such as the public schools, and the mayor's decision to allow a developer to build more than 120 housing units atop the Janney Elementary School library.

"We have grave concerns," Williams said. "When you have all that money, the people who put it there expect something in return. We have yet to see, in terms of the policies of the administration, decisions and positions that you would consider to be pro-consumer and not influenced by developers and the business community."

The mayor's signature fundraising event was a party for his 38th birthday in December at the home of developer Chris Donatelli, which attracted more than 1,000 people. Two sources familiar with the event said several big-name business leaders called Fenty's campaign to lobby to be listed on the host committee, which numbered 75.

Fenty also had an event at the downtown restaurant Georgia Brown's last week and a reception hosted by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (D). About 750 contributors have already given the maximum $2,000 to Fenty.

Among them are the family of Washington Nationals owner Theodore Lerner, which has donated at least $16,000 to a mayor who famously voted against public financing of the baseball stadium while he was on the D.C. Council.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who had backed Cropp, helped raise nearly $15,000 from employees at his law firm, Patton Boggs.

It's not that Fenty isn't getting small contributions. Plenty of the donors gave $200 or less. But the big-name business leaders don't end in the District. Fenty has raked in $60,000 from New Yorkers, including donations from billionaire investor Ron Perelman, former senator Alfonse D'Amato, Loews hotel chairman Jonathan Tisch and investor Stanley Druckenmiller.

Since becoming mayor, Fenty and Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert have awarded a number of large projects to developers, including the revitalization of the Southwest waterfront, the redevelopment of the old convention center site downtown and a $2.5 billion mixed-use project at Poplar Point in Ward 8. Executives from the companies chosen by the city to develop those projects -- PN Hoffman, Hines Archstone and Clark Realty Capital -- have contributed thousands to Fenty's reelection campaign.

Last week, Clark dropped out of the partnership at Poplar Point, citing a disagreement with Fenty and Albert on the timetable and financing. But most are singing Fenty's praises, such as Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Enterprises, who in 2006 gave $1,500 to Cropp but has given Fenty $2,000 this year.

"Mayor Fenty is doing an excellent job," she said.

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