How irreverent is D.C. mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser’s campaign strategist, Tom Lindenfeld?
This is what he’s got hanging on his office wall:
“Honorary dope fiend” – not your typical Washington Brag Wall certificate. He got the designation after working decades ago in San Francisco for the Delancey Street Foundation, a much-lauded organization that helps substance abusers rebuild productive lives. Lindenfeld, who had previously worked in prisons and halfway houses, lived at Delancey for nine months in 1979, he said. “It means a lot to me,” Lindenfeld said Monday of the organization and his time there.
Lindenfeld is unexpurgated, generously profane, instantly intimate. A favorite of reporters. A guy who knows how to make a campaign work at a granular level. A pro. He does his thing in Washington. But, really, this is a guy who seems like he should be in one of those smoky backrooms of old in Jersey or up in Albany. He’s squat and thick. He’s lost most of his hair and what he’s got left has the untamed look of a guy who just rolled out of bed. You’d want him on your side in a brawl. He makes his real money organizing phone calls for campaigns. D.C. mayoral campaigns are more of a side thing.
He says he’s got a website, but couldn’t recommend it. Testimonials? He can’t think of any. Glowing articles? “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll have to get back to you.”
There’s surprisingly little photographic evidence of Lindenfeld’s existence. Here’s a photo of him in a Washington City Paper article.
Lindenfeld could end up as one of the biggest winners in the city if Muriel Bowser, who he’s been advising, pulls off a victory in the Democractic mayoral primary on Tuesday. Bowser would be his third winner – he’s also helped guide Anthony A. Williams and Adrian Fenty to mayoral victories.
It’s after the campaigning stops that things sometimes get, well, interesting. After helping get Williams into the mayor’s office, Lindenfeld had to sue his former client to collect his pay. It turned into quite a public spectacle. Here’s what the Post’s Yolanda Woodlee and Craig Timberg wrote about a deposition in the lawsuit in 2003:
“Lindenfeld helped the mayor raise $862,000 two years before last year’s campaign with a high-profile fundraiser featuring such heavy hitters as then-president Bill Clinton and former Republican senator Bob Dole. Lindenfeld also assisted the mayor with his 2000 State of the District address and budget policy.
But to let Williams tell it, his relationship with Lindenfeld has reached such an all-time low that the mayor didn’t want his former adviser to even attend the deposition. The mayor’s lawyer filed a motion for a “protective order” to bar Lindenfeld on the grounds that his presence would be intimidating and distract from the proceedings. A judge denied that motion, so Lindenfeld was allowed to sit in.
“They were hoping I would just go away,” Lindenfeld said after the deposition. “I’m prepared to go to court. I know I did the work. I know he owes me. I know he doesn’t have any legal argument.”
During the deposition, Lindenfeld said that the mayor acknowledged he didn’t have any problems with “the quality of my work or my abilities.”
In fact, last year, when the mayor found himself faced with backlash over the petition scandal, Lindenfeld said, the mayor asked for his help. No way, until the old bill is settled, Lindenfeld said he told Williams.”
Lindenfeld and Williams reached a settlement, with the consultant “apparently” accepting a partial payment, according to a Washington Post article.
“My relationship with Tony Williams is a strong today as it was ever before,” Lindenfeld said Monday, sloughing off the whole thing as a minor billing dispute.
Then there was all the drama related to Adrian Fenty. Lindenfeld helped get Fenty elected in 2006. But, in a brilliant autopsy of the campaign penned by Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman, Lindenfeld kind of unloaded on his boss after Fenty got knocked out of office in 2010 by Vincent Gray in a brilliant autopsy of the campaign penned by Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman.
“His campaign’s failing resulted from a combination of tenor, hubris, pride and political malpractice,” Lindenfeld said Tuesday. “Campaigns that win are ones that are nimble. He’s got only one play in his playbook: knocking on doors.”
“Nothing I said was wrong,” Lindenfeld said Monday. “There’s some people who were concerned a little about the timing.”
Those comments prompted Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg to write a column headlined, “Remind me not to hire Tom Lindenfeld for my mayoral campaign.”
“Memo to politicians who might one day hire Tom Lindenfeld: Be very, very nice to him, or he’ll screw you in public on the worst day of your life,” Goldberg wrote.
Muriel Bowser, you’ve been warned.