A Dixieland jazz band, a Brazilian samba ensemble and a score of clowns, jugglers and stilt walkers will entertain the 5,000 revelers expected to turn out for a lavish 50th birthday celebration planned for Mayor Marion Barry at the Washington Convention Center on March 8 -- an event that organizers estimate will cost $100,000.
Keith Vance, director of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, said yesterday he has ruled that the group putting on the celebration, the Friends of Marion Barry, does not have to file reports with his office and itemize contributions and expenditures. His ruling has drawn criticism from some City Council members.
Because the mayor and organizers -- who include Barry's wife Effi, city officials, politicians and the mayor's friends -- have billed the party as a nonpolitical event, the group's operations fall outside the city's financial disclosure laws for elected officials, according to Vance.
Barry, who has accepted the endorsement of a key gay rights group for reelection and is expected to seek a third term in this year's city elections, has not formally announced his candidacy. Betty King, a special assistant to the mayor and an organizer of the party, said yesterday that funds raised for the affair will go toward covering its cost, with any leftover funds likely being given to charity.
The group has an office in space loaned by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and has sent invitations listing 78 patrons, at $500 apiece, and nearly 700 sponsors at $50 each. The group is chaired by Effi Barry, who is assisted by John Hechinger, the D.C. Democratic national committeeman, and Gladys Duncan, a longtime civic and Democratic Party activist. Tickets for the general public will be sold at the door for $15 per person.
Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), who is considering running against Barry, called the decison not to file disclosure reports "disgusting" and suggested it was contrary to the spirit of the city's campaign finance law.
"What are they trying to hide?" Wilson asked, adding that money paid to private firms helping to stage the party could conceivably be funneled into Barry's campaign in the form of political contributions.
"There's no such thing as a nonpolitical program for a politician," said Wilson, who along with council members Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) declined to be an honorary patron for the affair.
Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who is one of 28 honorary patrons along with D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, 10 City Council members and all 11 D.C. school board members, said organizers should disclose who contributes and how the money is spent "because government employes are working on it."
Wilson charged that city employes are helping to organize the party on government time, and he singled out King, the Barry aide who coordinates the appointment of about 1,800 people -- the bulk nominated by the mayor -- to city boards and commissions. King strongly denied Wilson's allegations.
"Betty King's operation has been calling everyone on a board and commission and asking them to be a sponsor," Wilson said.
King, who said she worked all day Monday, a holiday, on organizing the party, stated she is doing the work after hours, and she added, "I'm taking all my compensatory time and spending it on this."
"Nobody systematically sat down and said, 'Let's call 1,800 members of boards and commissions and put the arm on them,' " King said.
Annette Samuels, the mayor's press secretary, said most of the names of patrons and sponsors have been listed on the invitations being sent out.
Under the city's election laws, a campaign committee or political action committee must file periodic reports identifying all contributors who give more than $50 and all expenses in excess of $10.