Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. did not violate Virginia's conflict-of-interest law when his political action committee accepted a $10,000 contribution from a developer in January, the city's prosecutor said yesterday.
Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch concluded that Moran acted legally when he used money contributed to a PAC, the Del Ray Democratic Club, to pay for such items as a tuxedo rental and Christmas cards. Kloch said that all but one of those expenses "appear to fit into the category of constituent services," which can be financed by political contributions under Virginia law.
Kloch said the one club expenditure that did not qualify -- an $80 doctor bill -- was not large enough to improperly influence Moran's judgment on rezoning matters the contributor had before the City Council, which Moran chairs.
Moran is trying to unseat 8th Congressional District Rep. Stan Parris (R), and federal law bars Moran from accepting personal contributions larger than $1,000 for that campaign. Kloch said he did not consider whether the $10,000 contribution might be connected to that race, saying that is a question for federal law enforcement officials. No complaint has been filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
Kloch's finding brought a heated response from Alexandria GOP Chairman W. Michael Holm, who filed a complaint with Kloch July 19 contending that Moran had broken the law. Both Kloch and Moran are Democrats, and Holm has previously accused Kloch of refusing to take any action against his fellow party members.
Holm called yesterday's decision "another crock from Kloch."
"The purpose of the state law is to keep politicians honest," Holm said. "The law should not be interpreted to sanction the purchase of politicians as long as the money is laundered through a political action committee."
An aide to Moran praised Kloch's conclusion. "We never thought there was anything wrong," said Mame Reiley, Moran's campaign manager. Kloch's opinion "just confirmed that everything is on the up and up."
The issue stems from a $10,000 contribution to Moran by Hubert Hoffman, a developer with substantial interests in Alexandria. Hoffman made the contribution to the Del Ray Democratic Club, a political action committee that Moran chartered under state law and named after an Alexandria neighborhood.
When Hoffman made the contribution, the City Council was considering reducing the density of construction permitted on property Hoffman owns in Alexandria's Eisenhower Valley.
Moran voted in June to allow more development on the property than the council eventually approved, but he also opposed a separate Hoffman plan for a huge office building on the site.
Hoffman has said he gave the money because "I didn't think Jim was too financially solvent." Holm alleged that the contribution was intended for Moran's personal, not political, use. Because of the rezoning votes Moran cast, Holm argued that "this seriously calls into question whether the state conflict-of-interest statute has been violated."
Kloch said his decision was not affected by partisan political concerns. "My job is to uphold the law, as I have taken an oath to do," he said. "It's up to the citizens to decide whether they think I am doing the job correctly."