Mayor Walter E. Washington's re-election organization has received at least $10,000 - more than half of it on a single day - from nearly 40 area liquor dealers, many of whom want longer store hours and a city-run lottery to help the industry recover from sagging sales.
The dealers represent one of the larger identifiable interest groups contributing to the mayor's campaign, which had raised $130,502 by Aug. 10, according to reports filed with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
Close to one of every twelve dollars contributed to the campaign came from liquor dealers. Washington received nearly twice as much from the liquor industry as he did from members of the city's banking and savings and loan industry.
Liquor contributions to the mayor ranked fourth behind those from organized labor ($24,300), real estate ($16,850) and persons who identified themselves as lawyers ($14,029).
Addy Bassin, the owner of MacArthur Liquors, Inc. and a friend of City Administrator Julian R. Dugas for 35 years, said he collected most of the money, including the bulk of $6,200 given to Washington's organization by 22 dealers on Aug. 7.
"I'm mainly fighting for longer hours for the neighborhood stores and (for) gambling," Bassin said. "You can't buy the mayor, but it's my determination that he will win.
"If he wins, I think a contribution should be sent down to let him know to let me come up and talk before he vetoes (any bill benefiting the liquor industry) . . . I assume that with contribution, if I have something to say, I can call up and get an appointment."
Washington's campaign office had no comment on the contributions. Washington has said in the past, however, that he opposes legal gambling.
Earlier this year, a citizens study commission recommended that the city establish a daily numbers game. The commission also recommended, however, that the decision be put to voters in a referendum. Most political debate on the issue has been deferred until after this fall's elections.
Bassin said most store owners who made donations operate large businesses that do not need longer store hours or commissions from lottery tickets sales to prosper. Many are in fashionable neighborhoods and others have affluent clientele, he said.
But, Bassin added, gambling "is the salvation for the neighborhood stores. They're dying." In the last five years, he said, retail liquor sales citywide have decreased 19 percent.
Liquor stores in the District open later and close earlier than many of their suburban Maryland competitors. In addition, Maryland has had a state-run daily numbers game since 1976 that has been a boon to many liquor stores.
Most of the state's high-volume lottery outlets are located in liquor stores. As of one year ago, 17 of the top 20 stores were within a short distance of the Washington line.
In addition to spinoff sales, some lottery outlets earn as much as $1,000 a month in commissions from the sale of tickets for the state's daily numbers game. "If I had the numbers game here," one southeast Washington liquor dealer said, "(the sale of) the tickets alone would pay my (monthly) rent."
There is a feeling among some local store owners that those who gave to the campaign will stand a better chance to be chosen as an outlet for lottery tickets.
"They feel the District's going to have a lottery in the next few years and they think if they contribute to the right candidate, they're gonna be selected," said one storeowner in northwest Washington who asked not to be named and did not donate to any campaign.
The contest for the Democratic nomination for mayor is widely believed to be a three-way dead heat between Washington, City Council member Marion Barry and Council Chairman Sterling Tucker. As a result, many interest groups have contributed even handedly to all three candidates.
The liquor dealers have not followed this practice. Barry, the candidate who in the past has been most associated with legal gambling (but now prefres allowing citizens to decide in a referendum), received $5,385 from liquor dealers. Tucker received $2,000 in liquor contributions.
The collection of contributions from interest groups and their delivery to campaign headquarters in one batch is a fundraising technique frequently used by the mayor's campaign organization in 1974, according to campaign sources.
Bassin said he collected liquor money for the 1974 election and volunteered to do it again this year. The liquor contributions are the first instance of the mayor's organization using the technique in this campaign, according to the reports.
The D.C. Retail Liquor Dealers Association, the local trade organization, does not give political contributions.
Earlier this year, Mayor Washington proposed legislation that became effective in July reducing the city's alcohol tax by 50 cents a gallon. The reduction was asked by the association and was aimed at making District stores more competitive with the suburban counter parts. Barry, chairman of the council's committee on finance and revenue, shepherded the legislation through and took partial credit for passage of the measure.
Bassin said however, that the tax reduction - about 13 cents on a quart of whiskey - had been quickly wiped out by increases in wholesale prices.
On Christmas Eve of 1975, after protest from more than 120 ministers, civic association leaders and concerned citizens, Washington vetoed a similar liquor tax decrease measure and a bill to extend liquor store hours. He also rejected a bill that would have lowered by three years the city's legal age of majority, thus permitting 18-year-olds to buy hard liquor.
The ministers are one of the principal interest groups supporting Washington's candidacy. Nearly 200 announced their support for him earlier this month.
At that time, it was pointed out to the group's chairman, the Rev. Andrew J. Fowler of Capital View Baptist Church, that Washington was the top recipient of contributions from liquor interests.
"Well, that may be true," Fowler said. "But still, he vetoed the bill for giving liquor to the children."