Members of a political action committee organized to promote baseball in the District have accused its chairman of spending thousands of dollars to pay his rent, buy gas, eat lunch and attend nightclub parties, expenditures that might not be permitted under the city's campaign finance law.
In a complaint filed Aug. 19 with the Office of Campaign Finance, two of the PAC's members, Matt Cary and Al Madison, requested an investigation. They accused Neil S. Alpert, chairman of the D.C. Baseball PAC, of using substantial amounts of the PAC's money to "defray his personal expenses," including $7,800 for rent over three months. The PAC members said the group's bank records from May to July show at least 65 disbursements that were not reported in the PAC's July 31 filing with the campaign office. Among them: payments to Alpert of $856 and $1,052.10, marked as "operating expenditures."
In an interview yesterday, Cary said he is prepared to tell the campaign finance office that PAC members estimate Alpert might have misused between $35,000 and $40,000.
The PAC's campaign finance report shows that $71,320 had been raised since February, much of it at a fundraiser at the home of developer Herb Miller. The report filed by Alpert listed a balance of $6,184.11.
The complaint filed by Cary and Madison was first reported by WRC-TV.
Yesterday, Alpert, 27, denied wrongdoing. He said in an interview that he did use the PAC's money to pay some of his expenses, such as lunch with potential donors and contractors and for gas to attend baseball meetings. He said he paid his rent from the account because he used his apartment as the PAC's official headquarters.
"For six months, we were housed out of my apartment," Alpert said. "For two or three months . . . the PAC paid rent for my apartment."
Alpert said he is a professional fundraiser who has worked for the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross. He said that if there are irregularities, the PAC members are also at fault because they did not provide oversight.
"I'm trying to be as honest as possible," Alpert said. "There are those who believe there was wrongdoing, and those who don't. I don't believe it. I'm distraught about this. It hurts so much that now I will have to go to [the Office of Campaign Finance] and get this cleared up."
Alpert acknowledged that he had control of the PAC's checkbook. He also said that there are disbursements in the PAC's bank records that are not listed in the July 31 campaign finance report. He said he will amend the report.
Kathy S. Williams, general counsel for the Office of Campaign Finance, said the complaint is under review.
Tom Smith, one of the PAC's founders, said the board began to suspect financial irregularities in mid-April and instructed Alpert to stop spending.
"This is nothing but a flagrant abuse of the PAC funds," said Smith, a communications and marketing executive. "Why is he using the debit card to pay Exxon for gas?"
Smith said the PAC was organized late last year to lobby the D.C. Council in support of legislation that led to the return of major league baseball to the city. He said Alpert came to the initial planning meeting with Mary Ann Floto, who works in the mayor's community outreach office.
In April, the PAC members also formed the D.C. Baseball Association, a nonprofit group created to raise money for youth programs. Cary is president of the association, and Madison is its secretary.
The complaint alleges that Alpert was commingling money from the association with the PAC funds, which is not permitted under law. Alpert said he was not aware that the bank accounts should be separate.