D.C. mayoral candidate Walter E. Fauntroy berated rival John Ray once again yesterday over his campaign contributions, accusing Ray of accepting money from developers who he said have received "tax breaks" from the city every year.
Fauntroy's campaign released summaries of D.C. property assessment records, indicating that three major contributors to Ray's campaign -- Dominic F. Antonelli, Bernard Gewirz and brothers Richard and Ronald Cohen -- received tax "rollbacks" from assessors totaling more than $6 million during the last five years.
The rollbacks cited by Fauntroy are legal. Under city rules, the Department of Finance and Revenue assesses commercial property, and the owners can appeal those assessments to the Board of Equalization and Review, whose members are appointed by the mayor.
The board regularly reduces the assessments for many commercial property owners. However, Fauntroy campaign officials said the reductions for Antonelli, Gewirz and the Cohens were examples of how developers would continue to drain the public treasury if Ray is elected mayor.
"The thing that we have been trying to point out is that every contribution has its price," said Robert L. Johnson, Fauntroy's campaign manager. "The money that's been rolling into the campaign of Ray has some direct advantage for investors if John Ray is elected."
"District landowners are scratching John Ray's back because they know that he will scratch theirs," Fauntroy said in a statement released by the campaign. "How can he treat them fairly as mayor after allowing them to fund his campaign?"
Ray has generally ignored Fauntroy's criticism about his real estate contributions, terming them a "non-issue." Yesterday, his campaign press secretary said there would be no response to Fauntroy's latest assertions.
Fauntroy, who has done poorly in polls in the Sept. 11 Democratic mayoral primary, has been criticizing Ray's contributions from developers for weeks. About a third of Ray's nearly $900,000 in contributions has come from real estate interests.
Antonelli, Gewirz and the Cohens are among the most prolific contributors to Ray's campaign. Partnerships associated with the Cohens and their brother-in-law, Joel Meisel, have contributed more than $40,000 to Ray's campaign, while Gewirz and three other family members each contributed $2,000.
Antonelli and his wife contributed $2,500 to Ray's campaign, and real estate partnerships that receive heavy financial backing from Antonelli contributed another $26,000.
According to the data released by the Fauntroy campaign, the Board of Equalization and Review reduced the assessments of a dozen city properties owned by the three by more than $300 million collectively in the last five years. That translated into a tax savings of about $6.5 million.
Meanwhile, the man Ray and Fauntroy are vying to succeed, Mayor Marion Barry, made his first public appearance last night since his vacation in Jamaica, attending an event honoring his longtime campaign manager, Anita Bonds. Also appearing at the event were mayoral candidate Charlene Drew Jarvis and a number of other area politicians.