D.C. mayoral candidate John Ray, who has surged far ahead of his rivals in campaign contributions, received a third of his money from developers and other real estate interests, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Ray, a Democrat who has been attacked by Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and other opponents for accepting large contributions from developers, raised $227,265 from real estate interests -- 34 percent of his $668,584 total and the single largest source of his campaign contributions.
By contrast, Democrats Charlene Drew Jarvis received $40,023 from real estate interests, 22 percent of her total; David A. Clarke received $33,060, or 13 percent of his total; Fauntroy collected $17,510, or 9 percent of his total; and Sharon Pratt Dixon raised $7,520, or 4 percent of her total. Real estate interests contributed $12,835 to Republican Maurice T. Turner Jr., or 6 percent of his total.
Overall, real estate interests -- including developers, real estate brokers and construction firms -- have accounted for one of every four dollars contributed to D.C. political campaigns this year.
Developers and real estate brokers, confident that Ray will be the next mayor, say the at-large council member understands business concerns better than the other candidates do. Although Ray has made no firm commitments concerning appointments or other specific actions that would affect their business, these business people say Ray would take a balanced approach to the job.
"It is important to the industry to have someone who is going to weigh both sides, be clearheaded and balanced -- and not respond to emotions or tidal waves," said Abraham J. Greenstein, general counsel to the Washington D.C. Realtors Association. "That's where people who have a lot of money like to place their money."
"All I expect from him is the ability to talk to him or someone in his administration," said Greenstein, a member of Ray's finance committee.
The new mayor will appoint three of the five members of the Zoning Commission, a powerful body that controls land-use decisions in the city; the mayor also controls the D.C. planning office, which does staff work for the commission.
A mayor also has the power to initiate legislation of importance to the real estate community, from changes in the city's strict rent control law to amendments to the city's comprehensive land-use plan.
Candidates for mayor and D.C. Council posts this year have received more than $2.6 million in contributions, with nearly $2 million going to the mayor's race, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city. Candidates are scheduled to file additional campaign finance reports today.
Real estate interests have always played an important role in D.C. mayoral campaigns, but developer contributions have surfaced as a major campaign issue this year.
Fauntroy has lambasted Ray for courting support from real estate interests, and at one point charged that Ray, who is black, was the "Great White Hope" of suburban developers seeking to retain influence over city government.
Lawyers were the next largest source of contributions to Ray, providing $126,901 or 19 percent of his total. He received $87,572 from retailers and other business interests and $32,595 from doctors. Ray also reported receiving the largest number of small contributions of any candidate, collecting 636 checks of $50 or less.
Ray said this week that real estate is "the largest industry in the city" and it is not surprising that he received so much money from that group. He recently said that his opponents received a similar percentage of their campaign funds from real estate interests -- an assertion not borne out by the Post analysis.
"Campaign contributions when I was a council member never influenced a decision I made, and they are not going to influence my decisions as mayor," Ray said.
Ray said that he has repeatedly stood with citizens groups opposed to large-scale development in Ward 3, in upper Northwest Washington, and other parts of the city, and said he would insist on similar policies as mayor. He said he tells all contributors that "John Ray is not going to agree with you on everything, but at least you will get a fair hearing."
His rivals renewed their criticism of Ray, questioning whether Ray would be too heavily indebted to real estate interests in dealing with rent control, zoning commission appointments and other land issues.
Dixon, a lawyer, said real estate executives are supporting Ray "in a way that is unprecedented," and are doing so because they are interested in "who can do me a favor as opposed to what's in the best interests of the city."
Clarke, who as council chairman clashed with Ray over the issue of rent control, expressed concern that real estate money would help Ray mount an aggressive television campaign in the final campaign weeks.
"My worry is that John Ray is going to have so much money that he will be able to control one vehicle of communication," Clarke said.
Jarvis said, "Ray has promised the developers that he is going to get rid of rent control . . . . Ray is controllable, and monied interests want people who are controllable."
A few real estate figures with large holdings in the District have played a significant role in raising large sums for Ray, through contributions by family members or through partnerships they control. Although the limit on corporate contributions to D.C. mayoral candidates is $2,000, the law permits such multiple contributions.
Thus real estate parterships and individuals associated with brothers Richard and Ronald Cohen and their brother-in-law Joel Meisel were able to contribute more than $40,000 to Ray's campaign.
Partnerships affiliated with developer Stephen A. Goldberg contributed $14,500 to Ray's campaign. And members of the family of apartment house owner William Calomiris -- a long-time friend who plays racquetball with Ray -- have contributed $21,000.
Dominic F. Antonelli, a sometime business partner of the Cohens and a major District developer, also appears to have had a hand in the Ray fund-raising apparatus. Antonelli and his wife made personal contributions of $2,500 to Ray's campaign.
Ray also received $26,000 from developers and partnerships associated with Huntmar Associates and Tri -- Equity Group, Northern Virginia real estate firms that receive major financial backing for their deals from Antonelli.
Staff researcher Bridget Roeber and polling analyst Sharon Warden contributed to this report.