D.C. Mayor Fenty's fundraising on pace to break his own record

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has raised nearly $3.6 million.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has raised nearly $3.6 million. (Rich Lipski - Twp)
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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has raised nearly $3.6 million for his reelection campaign, an indication that he is on pace to surpass the record $3.8 million he collected in 2006 and a boost for supporters disheartened by his waning popularity.

Fenty's latest filing came a day after The Washington Post published its poll showing that the mayor's approval rating has plummeted to 42 percent from 72 percent in the past two years. In a hypothetical matchup, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who is mulling a challenge, would beat Fenty 35 percent to 31 percent among registered Democrats, according to the poll.

The Fenty camp, however, pointed to the campaign finance report as proof that the mayor has ample backing and can rally his supporters. "It speaks to how happy people are about the direction the mayor is taking them in," said Ben Soto, Fenty's campaign treasurer.

From Aug. 1 through Sunday, Fenty collected $818,022.61 in contributions from more than 1,200 individuals and businesses, according to the campaign finance report. He has more than $3 million in cash on hand. Candidates were required to file their reports by the end of Monday.

More than half of Fenty's contributions this period, $446,000, was from well-financed developers and business owners, and their companies, who gave the maximum $2,000.

At this rate, Fenty could raise a staggering sum that would pose an obstacle for challengers.

One of those challengers, former television reporter Leo Alexander, said he had expected to raise $250,000 by now but has collected $23,050, with about $3,235 in cash on hand. But he said he is encouraged by what he said is new interest in his campaign amid the controversy surrounding the recreation construction contracts awarded to firms with personal and political ties to Fenty. "People started looking for options. We welcome them to our campaign to learn about us. The more they learn, the more they'll like," Alexander said.

Sulaimon Brown, a onetime campaign volunteer for Fenty, has raised $13,765 in his bid against the mayor but has spent almost all of it. According to his campaign finance report, Brown has $568.88 in cash on hand.

Brown said D.C. residents "feel very left out," noting that The Post's poll shows African Americans have done an about-face on Fenty. In 2008, 68 percent of blacks approved of the mayor, but now, 65 percent disapprove. "The present administration and some of his allies on the council . . . have really disenfranchised the minority community," Brown said.

William Lightfoot, Fenty's campaign manager, has said that the mayor's poor showing among blacks in the poll is because many of them are older and more entrenched residents who are connected to the city government that Fenty is upending.

But the latest campaign finance report also shows that city employees answered the mayor's last-minute push for contributions, representing about half the $34,515 added to his coffers Sunday. More than two dozen of that day's 129 contributions were $10 or $20.

The small donations were a change for Fenty, who more frequently puts himself in the company of "big-city mayors" and has certainly played the part to collect contributions around the country.

In September, Charles King, an agent who represents entertainment mogul Tyler Perry and actor Terrence Howard, threw Fenty a fundraiser in Los Angeles, Soto said. King is a friend and Howard University Law School classmate of Fenty's, Soto said, adding that the event and accompanying fundraising effort netted about $40,000. Contributors included "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, who each gave $1,000, and producer James Lassiter with $1,000.

Philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad also gave $2,000 each during that push. And in August, poker champion Phil Ivey donated $2,000 to the Fenty campaign.

At-large council candidate Clark E. Ray found himself in more notorious company. According to his campaign finance report, alleged White House gate-crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi donated $40 to help him in his challenge to incumbent council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). Ray, fired last year from his post as director of the Department of Parks and Recreation when Fenty wanted to go in a different direction, trails Mendelson $130,970 to $80,382 raised, according to their reports.

Of the council incumbents up for reelection this year, Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) leads the way in fundraising. Graham, who is seeking a fourth term, raised $171,391 and spent $8,610 from October through Jan. 27, according to his report. He has been battered by a wave of bad news in the past year as he chaired the Metro board and weathered the arrest of his top aide for bribery.

Staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this report.

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