IT IS NOT out of line for Walter Fauntroy to question "the monied interest among outside developers and realtors who are backing John Ray," hisrival for mayor. But he goes an offensive step further when he dismisses his opponent as "the Great White Hope and a tool of outside developers ... " and says that he "will not let the monied interest turn D.C. into a plantation controlled by their hand-picked overseer, John Ray." He adds that "Ray's campaign is the hope of the Regardie's magazine, from which no right-thinking black leader would even consider accepting an endorsement."

Surely voters have reason to ask why a candidate is generously financed by interests based outside the city, particularly when those interests come mainly from a single industry. The work of the press as well as Mr. Fauntroy's campaign staff in investigating listings in Mr. Ray's financial reports revealed concentrations of maximum contributions from firms listed at the same address and traceable to the same parties. This is the value of financial disclosure requirements, and this is also why the city should demand more information than it does. Unlike federal law, District law treats corporations and partnerships the same way it treats individuals for purposes of contribution limits. Thus a developer may legally establish all sorts of companies and partnerships that contribute maximum amounts.

No one in the District has been a greater beneficiary of such contributions over the years than Marion Barry. But these veiled contributions also have shown up in other candidates' reports, including those of Mr. Fauntroy. D.C. Council member William Lightfoot has introduced a bill to require candidates to disclose names of the members of partnerships that contribute to their political campaigns and to group contributions according to ownership interests. It deserves enactment.

It is possible to charge on the basis of such information that the interests of the city are being undercut by outside interests and that heavy spenders are attempting to "buy" or unduly influence a certain candidate. That's a familiar political tactic. But repeated references to race -- in this instance by a black person and about a black person -- are ugly anytime and are especially troublesome at this moment of strained race relations in the city. Mr. Fauntroy contends that his statements are factual, and the racial allusions are merely descriptive. But by these grating references, he harms his claim to be a responsible candidate for mayor of a multiracial city.