Believe it or not, Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) really did spend more than $300,000 over the past seven months, according to records released by his mayoral exploratory committee.

Fenty spent $310,488.52, to be precise, between last December and June 1, when he shut down his exploratory operation and formally declared himself a candidate in the 2006 race for mayor.

Records show a big chunk of the money went to pollster Peter Hart, who was paid $71,750 to survey likely voters citywide and conduct a variety of focus groups. Another $65,052 went to other consultants, including Tom Lindenfeld, erstwhile adviser to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who provided the committee with office space, among other services.

Other expenses: More than $4,600 went to pay for a fundraiser aboard the U.S.S. Sequoia, the former presidential yacht. Just over $4,300 went for catering. And the committee's Web site cost more than $6,200.

But the biggest line item, by far, was staff salaries, stipends and reimbursements. Records show the committee spent $141,172 on staffing. Fenty's chief aide, John Falcicchio, alone received $72,049.

A significant portion of that amount went to reimburse Falcicchio for money he spent on the committee's behalf, but those reimbursements are not itemized in records the committee released to the public. The committee reported spending another $2,500 to reimburse people who did not receive salaries.

Fenty said the committee had four full-time staff members, including Falcicchio. Others were paid by the hour to make RSVP calls for each of about a dozen fundraisers. "It costs a lot of money to raise money," he said.

In an interview, Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) questioned the propriety of spending so much money on the limited task of testing the waters, especially after the council had discussed capping expenditures at $200,000. Orange, whose mayoral exploratory committee has raised $200,000, proposed emergency legislation to institute the cap, and the council passed it this week.

But the emergency bill cannot be applied retroactively, according to the council's attorney. And, though he voted for Orange's bill, Fenty said he has no intention of returning any money.

"I don't have an exploratory committee" anymore, he said.

Several Are Won't-Runs

Speaking of the mayor's race, Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said he's happy chairing the council's health committee and is no longer actively thinking about running against Mayor Williams. Former U.S. attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. does not sound like he's exactly champing at the bit to get into the race, either.

"What I've told everyone is that if the mayor decides to run, I won't," Holder said. "I think he's done a good job."

A third dark-horse candidate, former Verizon executive Marie C. Johns, said it's "too early to make a decision of such importance." She's attending "meet and greets," she said, and sharing "ideas about the future of the city."

The Wounded Walk Again

Two council members were back in action this week after suffering health problems. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) had surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye, and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) had been hospitalized with pneumonia.

That would make at least the third trip to the hospital for Barry since he began his council term in January. Barry declined to confirm or deny the hospitalization, saying only that "pneumonia is tough to beat.''

Both showed up for the council's legislative session Tuesday. Asked how he was feeling as he left council chambers early to attend the Ballou Senior High School graduation ceremony, Barry, sans beard, flashed his trademark smile and said he was feeling great.

The Trials of Public Citizen

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook is highly annoyed with the mayor's new spokesman, Vince Morris, who described her organization as "bought and paid for by trial lawyers" in a Post story about medical malpractice insurance.

Williams wants to address skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums in part by limiting jury awards for plaintiffs. Public Citizen thinks that's a bad idea and published a report last month saying so. Morris hadn't seen the report but dismissed Public Citizen as biased. That prompted an angry letter from Claybrook.

"Public Citizen is a national, non-profit advocacy organization with 150,000 members that represents the interests of consumers throughout the country . . . not any single segment or profession . . . ," the letter said.

Claybrook wrote to Morris, the mayor and the council: "We are not 'bought and paid for by trial lawyers' as you recklessly assert. Apparently you had no substantive response to the government data we published that refutes the mayor's anti-consumer legislation, so you reverted to name-calling. The fact is we receive our funding from three primary sources: membership dues, foundation grants and publication sales. . . . Next time, please be sure of your facts before you speak. "

Morris's response?

"Public Citizen does a lot of great things, but they are paid for by trial lawyers," he said. "I'm not going to take it back."

A Vote for D.C.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) will discuss his bill to grant the District a vote in Congress, called the D.C. Fairness in Representation Act, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. tomorrow before the D.C. Affairs Section of the D.C. Bar. The public is invited to Hogan & Hartson litigation center, lower level, 555 13th Street NW.

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook is miffed at a mayoral spokesman.