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  •   Developer's Donations Scrutinized

    By Yolanda Woodlee
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, August 30, 1998; Page B01

    Georgetown developer Herbert S. Miller, a major Democratic contributor, and several business entities he is affiliated with have given a total of $21,000 to four candidates who are running for office in the District primary election.

    Miller, who had a business matter come before the D.C. Council as recently as Monday, contributed to four Democratic council members who are candidates in the Sept. 15 primary. They include mayoral candidates Harold Brazil (At Large), Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7) and Jack Evans (Ward 2), as well as Frank Smith Jr., who is seeking reelection to the Ward 1 council seat.

    All four voted to allow a newly formed partnership in which Miller is a principal, Gallery Place Associates LLC, to purchase a city-owned building at 614 H St. NW. The council voted 11 to 2 to transfer the property, which is near the new MCI Center and slated to be developed by the partnership into a housing, retail and entertainment complex.

    Miller, a longtime supporter of Mayor Marion Barry, is a regular contributor to political campaigns, both locally and nationally. He gave $82,000 to the Democratic National Committee in June and earlier this year attended a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser for Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District.

    The contributions to the four council members running for office this year were filed under Miller's name or nine partnerships listed in campaign finance reports as operating at the same address -- 2620 P St. NW. The Georgetown brownstone was used as an office by Miller until this spring.

    Because the contributions all listed the same address, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has asked all the candidates to supply the names of members of the partnerships who are responsible for the contributions. The effort by the campaign finance office is intended to ensure that Miller and his partners have not exceeded the $2,000 limit on contributions to the mayoral candidates or the $500 limit for ward candidates, according to Kathy S. Williams, general counsel for campaign finance.

    According to information filed with the Office of Campaign Finance by Brazil's campaign, Miller is listed as the partner contributing from one of the partnerships. Under District law, contributions by partnerships should be attributed to each partner's share of ownership, except when the partners agree that one will take credit for the whole contribution.

    It is unclear who Miller's partners are in those partnerships, which were established at a time he was building outlet malls nationwide. The partnerships are not registered with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Miller is no longer chief executive of Mills Corp., which manages and operates outlet malls, though he is on its board of directors.

    Although Gallery Place Associates was not listed in the campaign finance reports as a contributor, Miller's partner in the endeavor, John E. "Chip" Akridge, and the Akridge companies spread an additional $6,000 among all the candidates. Chavous and Evans each received $2,000, Brazil got $1,750, and Smith got $250. Akridge also gave $1,000 to another mayoral candidate, Anthony A. Williams.

    Miller's wife, Patrice, gave a total of $6,000. Evans got $2,000, and Brazil's campaign documents list two separate $2,000 donations, which would exceed the $2,000 limit on contributions by individuals.

    An architectural firm involved in a lawsuit over the property adjacent to the city-owned building transferred Monday to the Miller partnership argued that it should have been sold through competitive bidding.

    Alfred Liu, president of AEPA Architects, said he believes the "whole thing is politics. It has nothing to do with protecting citizens' rights. Because of the vote, I definitely think they were influenced by the money. There are so many reasons that any one of them in clear conscience should not have voted for it."

    Miller is on a family vacation on a yacht in Greece and could not be reached for comment, according to his spokesman, Leslie Johnson.

    All the candidates said the contributions did not influence their decisions, though they said they recognized that the money could raise eyebrows. They said Barry rushed the resolution through the council, and they agreed that Miller's project is in the city's best interest.

    Brazil said the project "means more tax revenue for Washington. If it's not a good issue, and we're pushing it anyway, then you ask, why are we pushing it?"

    Smith said the council veterans are too sophisticated to accept campaign funds in return for a vote.

    "I would never do that," he said. "On the other hand, people who have money, give money. You can't get elected without money."

    Chavous said business people who are opposed to the project have contributed more to his campaign than Miller has.

    "It had no influence," Chavous said. "I've had zero conversations with Mr. Miller about 614 H Street. It looked like a good proposal for the city on its own merit."

    Evans acknowledged that the timing, while coincidental, could give a wrong impression.

    "If you single out 614 H Street, you can make us all look bad," Evans said. "These [decisions] come along fairly often. . . . In a best of all worlds, this would not come up in the middle of an election. The question is why did this come up three weeks before the election?"

    Money With Ties to Miller

    Herbert S. Miller has been a significant contributor to the election campaigns of several members of the D.C. Council. Below are some of the contributions he made to candidates through various companies in which he was a partner. All companies listed have the mailing address of 2620 P St. NW.

    FRANK SMITH Jr.

    D.C. Council candidate, Ward 1

    Sunrise Mills LP $500

    Potomac Mills III LP (CP) $500

    Montgomery Village Associates LP $500

    Gurnee Mills LP (CP) $500

    Washington Outlet Mall LP (CP) $500

    Crosswinds Center Associates of St. Petersburg LP (CP) $500

    Germantown Development Associates LP (CP) $500

    Western Hills Plaza Associates LP $500

    Fashion Center Associates LP (CP) $500

    Herbert S. Miller, personal contribution $500

    TOTAL $5,000

    HAROLD BRAZIL

    Mayoral candidate

    Washington Outlet Mall $1,000

    Gurnee Mills $1,000

    Gurnee Mills $1,000

    Washington Outlet Mall $1,000

    Patrice R. Miller, personal contribution $2,000

    Patrice R. Miller, personal contribution $2,000

    TOTAL $8,000

    JACK EVANS

    Mayoral candidate

    Gurnee Mills $1,000

    Sunrise Mills $2,000

    Washington Outlet Mall $2,000

    Herbert S. Miller, personal contribution $2,000

    Patrice R. Miller, personal contribution $2,000

    TOTAL $9,000

    KEVIN P. CHAVOUS

    Mayoral candidate

    Gurnee Mills $1,000

    Fashion Center Associates $1,000

    Potomac Mills III $1,000

    Germantown Development Associates $1,000

    Washington Outlet Mall $1,000

    TOTAL $5,000

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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