When the newly elected Democratic State Committee took office last week, members were greeted with an outstanding credit card bill from last summer's Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Immediately, there was a buzz among the city's politicos that the state party is broke. And the new officers aren't sure how much cash, if any, the party has on hand.
A. Scott Bolden, the former party chairman, acknowledged that there is an American Express credit card bill with charges totaling $70,000. But Bolden said the party is contesting at least $49,000 of that amount with the credit card company and the Marriott Hotel, where the District's delegation stayed while at the convention.
"The bill is $70,000 with mischarges, double charges and inappropriate charges," Bolden said. "The ultimate bill is not and will not be $70,000."
Jeffrey Norman, the newly elected treasurer who took office Oct. 6, said the D.C. party, the credit card company and the hotel are investigating the charges.
"Everybody is upset," Norman said. "A lot of figures are floating around."
Bolden, who lost his committee seat in the September primary, said he is working to resolve the dispute.
"When it's all said and done, there will be no deficit," Bolden said. "The charges will be resolved. We have some money to collect from the participants and some to collect from contributors who committed money to the party for the convention."
While Bolden was head of the party, its bank account went from $10,726.30 to $288,295.44, according to a campaign finance reports filed. A report filed Aug. 5, the latest one available, showed that the organization had raised $101,060 in the previous two months and spent $71,796. It had $29,264 in cash at the time.
Over the past year, Bolden said, the party has spent money on hiring an executive director, five elections and its Kennedy-King dinner, an annual fundraiser. He said the party has about $20,000 left in its account. Local Democrats raised and budgeted $100,000 to spend on the Democratic convention, he said.
"If there's any debt left over, I'm committed to working with the committee to erase that debt and raise any necessary funds, because I want them to start with a clean slate," Bolden said.
The credit card problem arose, Norman said, because there are several double billings in the charges for hotel rooms. He said the state party made reservations for the delegates at a suburban hotel. But when rooms became available closer to the convention site, those delegates were allowed to switch their reservations. Norman said those delegates were later charged as "no shows" on the credit card.
Some delegates also have yet to pay for their rooms, which were reserved on the credit card but were to have been paid for by the individuals when they checked out of the hotel, he said.
Norman, who did not attend the convention, said double billings are the biggest dispute. Other charges that arose from the catering of parties and receptions could be paid for with pledges from various businesses and individuals.
"Some of the bill is legitimate," Norman said. "How much of the bill is legitimate will determine how much money we have. We're virtually positive that some of the bill is inaccurate. The deficit could be small or none at all." Norman said the committee's bank records are private, although the December minutes will include a financial report.
"I inherited all of this," Norman said. "We're confident that our former chair will resolve the matter, and we'll go forward from there."
Ex-Candidate Now an Aide
Kwame R. Brown may have won the at-large Democratic seat on the D.C. Council, but his challenger, Sam Brooks, has beaten him to the John A. Wilson building.
Brooks, who unsuccessfully challenged council member Harold Brazil in the September primary, is already at work in a council office. Brown won't show up until January.
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) hired Brooks, who retains political aspirations, to help him formulate policy on baseball. Brooks will work closely with Steve Hernandez, one of Graham's legal counselors, to staff the baseball issue.
Graham is one of the council members who are still undecided on whether the council should support a $440 million plan by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) to build a baseball stadium along the Anacostia waterfront.
He said he wants to hear what his constituents have to say about the proposal.
"Sam is going to help me with community meetings and community work," Graham said. "This is a new position."
There is a lot of work to be done before the baseball proposal wins his support, Graham said. The first public hearing on the issue will be held Oct. 28.
"We have a big issue. We're expecting a flood of amendments," Graham said. "I don't know if they'll pass. This will be the mother of all hearings. We'll be there for days. There's going to be a lot of work to be done."
Graham said he reached out to Brooks because he was so well received by the voters. In fact, Brooks, 24, carried Ward 2, where he lives. And Brooks said that voters haven't seen the last of him. Before he decides where he's going to move, Brooks said, he's looking for a new address in a ward with a potential council opening in 2006.
"I was impressed by how he handled himself in the campaign," Graham said. "How well informed he became on issues. He did his homework. I thought he would be able to work with me."
Graham said he did not hire Brooks because he felt bad that he lost the election.
"He's a young, vigorous fellow with a lot of ability," Graham said. "I'm very excited about having Sam be part of our staff. This had nothing to do with sympathy."