D.C. Council's Oft-Tax Troubled Barry Buys Opera Coat for $800 at Cancer Auction

By Tim Crag
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

D.C. Council member Marion Barry hasn't been able to pay his taxes on time, but that didn't stop him over the weekend from shelling out $800 for a new opera coat for his girlfriend at an auction.

According to a tipster who was in attendance, Barry, a survivor of prostate cancer, was at the George Washington University Cancer Gala at the Ritz-Carlton on Saturday when he placed the winning bid on the coat. An opera coat is an elegant evening wrap, typically made of velvet with a shawl collar and bell sleeves.

In an interview yesterday, Barry said he bought the coat "out of my own personal money." He then said he topped CNN host Wolf Blitzer during the bidding.

"I started out bidding $700, then he bid $750," Barry said. "He couldn't get it at $750, so I bid higher."

He said his girlfriend had remarked on entering the room that she loved the coat, which had a value of $2,000, and he decided to buy it for her as a gift for her birthday next month.

"We had a lot of fun," he said. "It went to a great cause, and she got a beautiful coat."

Barry's purchase of the wrap came two weeks after federal prosecutors backed off a request that he be sent to jail for violating his probation on tax offenses. Instead, they are recommending that Barry be put on home confinement for 30 days and that his probation should be extended for two years.

The IRS has been taking $1,350 every two weeks from his salary since late 2006. He also had been paying the D.C. government $350 a month for taxes, interest and penalties.

Barry said his legal troubles shouldn't be a factor in what gifts he buys.

"I don't worry about that," he said. "That's taken care of. My '07 taxes are paid. My '08 taxes are paid. I have a court issue, but I don't have a tax issue."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company