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DeMorning DeBonis: July 19, 2010


If you haven't already, you might want to check out my Sunday story on D.C. Council chairman candidate Kwame Brown's personal debts. Here's the meat: "Since December, three credit card issuers have sued Brown (D-At Large) in D.C. Superior Court, alleging nonpayment of bills and interest exceeding $55,000, court records indicate. Brown settled one of the cases in April, agreeing to pay $500 a month toward a bill of nearly $24,000; the other cases remain active. The debt is compounded by Brown's repeated borrowing against his home and the purchase of the boat, a 1994 Chris Craft Continental express cruiser, on credit. Brown estimates that his personal debt exceeds $700,000." Reaction to the story has been mixed; some question why personal finances should be aired in this manner, but most seem to echo the thoughts of Gary Imhoff, who writes in themail: "Politicians are our employees; we hire them to manage our public business. Politicians' private lives are our business at the same point that employees' private lives are the business of their employers. When their private lives are messy enough to affect their judgment or the performance of their duties, we should know about it." And DCist's Dave Stroup points out: "[Y]ou have to work hard at ignoring creditors to end up in a courtroom. You don't end up in court because you were late on a payment or two. What we're all left asking is how someone with such political aspirations could be so reckless."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Fenty promises more of the same in hotel debate -- The Wilson Building's top lobbyists -- How get out of United Medical Center? -- Gray's fence comes down -- Bryan Weaver perfects the YouTube campaign


MAYOR RACE -- Another day, another mayoral debate: Friday's tête-é-tête was at the Renaissance Hotel, sponsored by the Hotel Association PAC and moderated by WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood. The Post's Nikita Stewart reported from the scene: "In closing remarks, [Mayor Adrian Fenty] told the crowd that he would run the government the same way he has since taking office in 2007. 'What do you expect in a Fenty administration? You can expect what you've seen over the past four years,' he said. 'High-level professionals working with the business community. Getting things done.' Seeing an obvious opening, [Vincent Gray] responded by raising the controversy surrounding recreation construction contracts that went to firms with ties to Fenty, though he wrongly said they were awarded 'without competitive bidding.' 'You talk about you're going to get the same thing for four more years from a Fenty administration. You sure are,' Gray said to laughter. 'That's exactly why you should vote for me for mayor.' " Also watch Sherwood's report. Also worth a look: The Georgetown Dish surveys denizens of its titular 'hood on the mayoral race.

TOP LOBBYISTS -- The Wilson Building's top lobbyists, as reported by WBJ's Michael Neibauer: "Among the major players are D.C. lawyer David Wilmot and firms McGuire Woods LLP, Oldaker, Belair & Wittie LLP and Holland & Knight LLP, which count more than 60 clients between them, according to reports filed with the Office of Campaign Finance. ... Wilmot earned $150,750 from five clients alone. His most lucrative D.C. contract is the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, which pays him a $13,125 monthly retainer. He also represents Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- a retailer without a D.C. location yet -- on 'legislative matters,' as well as the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., which is pushing legislation before the D.C. Council that would force online travel businesses like Travelocity to collect the hotel occupancy tax. ... Douglas Patton with Oldaker, Belair & Wittie, another lobbyist heavyweight, represents the Interactive Travel Services Association in the tax tiff. Patton also lobbies for General Motors Corp., the Archdiocese of Washington and the pawn shop industry, which is fighting a crackdown proposed by council woman Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). ... Patton, once a deputy mayor under former Mayor Anthony Williams, said of his secret to success: 'I've lived a long time.' 'I know the halls,' Patton said. 'I know the people and I know the staff people. I've just kind of been here.'"

HOW TO EXIT UMC -- Now that the city is running United Medical Center, lawmakers are debating an "exit strategy" - a la Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben Fischer reports in WBJ. "Though the D.C. Council has supported the takeover, and Attorney General Peter Nickles calls the city's only hospital east of the Anacostia River 'the highest priority' for the Fenty administration, all parties say D.C.'s hospital ownership should be temporary. 'To get into this business at this precarious fiscal time is absolute lunacy,' said council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). 'I recognize the dilemma, but what I'm saying is, we need to get out of this as soon as possible.' Evans means months. The administration and Health Committee Chairman David Catania (I-At Large) are thinking a few years. It may not be that easy." In other news: CFO Natwar Gandhi has appointed deputy Deloras A. Shepard, a former D.C. General controller, to the UMC board.

THE FENCE COMES DOWN -- Vince Gray's fence is now in compliance: "Gray recently finished removing a portion of the black aluminum fence that a city board ruled was on public space, complying with concerns from city inspectors and regulators over the fence's height and location," Tim Craig reported Saturday. "The work has left Gray's $500,000 Hillcrest home with barriers around the side and rear but not the front facing Branch Avenue SE. 'The portion of the fence that the inspectors ordered him to remove was removed,' Gray spokeswoman Traci Hughes said Friday. 'He always said he was going to comply with the order.' ... City inspectors and regulators said Friday that they had not officially confirmed that Gray fully complied with their order to remedy the situation. But officials appeared as if they were ready to take Gray at his word that he had followed the order. 'I assume he recognized the binding nature of the order and has taken steps to comply,' Attorney General Peter Nickles said. 'I am happy after two and a half years we finally have compliance with the law.'"

IN PRAISE OF CATHY -- Post columnist Courtland Milloy, who once questioned Cathy Lanier's credentials, now lauds her as "one of the city's most effective, and popular, public officials." "Back in 2006, when she was nominated for the job, Lanier got mad at me -- 'frustrated,' as she put it -- for asking whether it mattered that the top cop in a mostly black city was a white woman. ... But let's face it: Race and gender matter. Only 1 percent of the nation's police chiefs are women, and Lanier is just the third white chief in the District's modern era. ... 'The high approval rating is not for me, it's for the department,' Lanier said while we dined at Ray's the Steaks, her favorite restaurant, in Northeast. 'Nobody likes the chief when the officers aren't doing their jobs.' ... Throughout the dinner, the people kept waving and stopping by the table to express their appreciation. Outside the restaurant, you'd have thought she was a rock star. ... So, I mused, that she, of all people, appeared to have overcome the burden of race and gender in a city frequently divided by both. 'When I put on this uniform, I am not white, nor am I a woman,' Lanier replied. Then, after smoothing a swath of blond hair beneath her chief's hat, she added with a streetwise twang, 'I am the po-lice.'"

CONFLICT OF INTEREST -- Jonetta Rose Barras unpacks the election-fraud bill that the council passed on emergency just before recess: "That law would make it a crime to pay, offer to pay or accept payment for registering to vote or for voting; give false information to establish eligibility to vote; submit a false registration application; and procure or cast ballots that are materially fraudulent. ... Federal election laws cover such actions. So, why the need for a District law, asked Ward 6's Tommy Wells, who seemed the only legislator familiar with the phrases 'conflict of interest' and 'appearance of a conflict of interest.' ... Seven other legislators hope to retain their seats or move to higher office -- but they did not say anything. In fact, his colleagues essentially told him to shut up."

WEAVER'S AD -- Ward 1 council challenger Bryan Weaver has cut a very sharp YouTube ad -- an homage to Paul Wellstone's famous 1990 "Fast Paul" spot. "The Best Campaign Video You'll See All Year," DCist writes: "We can't really call it positive politics, since one of the numerous highlights of the video is Weaver standing in front of Jim Graham's iconic convertible and knocking the bow-tied one -- though he never names him -- for never riding the system. But Weaver's three-point stroke on the playground and his too-adorable-for-words daughter almost makes us forget this video is about a Council campaign." also admires.

THE CASE FOR SETTLEMENT -- The Post's editorial board defends Peter Nickles and his decision to settle with Banneker Ventures against election-year attacks: "It remains to be seen if Mr. Nickles got the best deal for the city, but he makes a plausible argument that it was in the city's interests to settle to avoid the risk of much greater liability as well as the possibility of ongoing construction projects getting stalled in the legal dispute. A review of the documents that Mr. Nickles provided to us shows the city acceding to demands only for costs incurred by the firm, such as purchased equipment and leased office space. In negotiations, the city demanded a detailing of costs, challenged certain expenses, refused many demands, and insisted that payment be made and documented to subcontractors, some of whom are continuing their work for the city. Mr. Nickles says that he consulted a number of officials but never Mr. Fenty. Indeed, if one subscribes to the theory that the attorney general is interested only in the mayor's political welfare, it's difficult to see how the decision to settle -- giving grist to the mayor's opponents -- fits the scenario."

SHAKY FOUNDATION -- So what's the deal with the "tent city" in Shaw? Lydia DePillis of Housing Complex does a very good job of explaining how affordable housing protesters are saying that the Fenty administration is breaking promises it never actually made -- specifically, to include "tiered" levels of affordable housing. "Rosemary Ndubuizu, a OneDC community organizer, recalls having Ketan Gada, a development manager with the Department of Planning and Economic Development, sit in her conference room and work out a spreadsheet of tiered rents. But that rent schedule never made it into the final, signed MOU. So when OneDC shouts that Fenty broke his promise, technically speaking, he didn't -- which is perhaps why they're not posting the document all around their camp as well. 'Perhaps there was an explicit level of trust that shouldn't have been there,' Ndubuizu admits. 'We now know, don't trust the Fenty administration.'" Also WTOP, DCmud.

MORE LEO -- The Washington Times' Deborah Simmons gives more ink on Leo Alexander. "Mr. Alexander, a Democrat who is maintaining a distant third place in the primary race for D.C. mayor, has a shallow war chest, few endorsements of consequence and a position on some social issues that's more akin to Stop ERA crusader Phyllis Schlafly than those of his liberal rivals. He is the only candidate in any D.C. race to be endorsed by Mrs. Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and he had only $701 in campaign funds during the June reporting period. He has been called a spoiler in what otherwise would be a two-way race, but don't talk to Mr. Alexander about stepping aside prior to the Sept. 14 primary."

BIGWIGS FOR FENTY -- Politico's Patrick Gavin reports: "On July 25, a fundraiser for Fenty is being thrown at Comet Ping Pong by co-hosts including Media Matters' David Brock, Hunter Biden (son of Joe), Nathan Daschle (son of Tom), consultants Shari Yost Gold and Jason Gold, lawyer Mary Streett, Elmendorf Strategies Shanti Stanton, Fortune Brands Matt Stanton and consultant Kimball Stroud."


Gray sits down with Bruce Johnson (WUSA-TV)

Neighbors of Woodley Park "McMansions" sue the city (Examiner, WUSA-TV)

Michelle Rhee's honeymoon location is a mystery to Michelle Rhee (D.C. Schools Insider)

Cops win $900,000 in race discrimination case; MPD vows appeal (Examiner)

Nickles helps break impasse in Southeast landlord-tenant dispute (Examiner)

Law firm's pullout means "a return to the starting blocks" for old-convention-center-site development (Capitaql Business)

Jim Graham opens campaign headquarters at 3512 Georgia Ave. NW -- future site of Park Morton redevelopment project (Park View D.C.)

Will Mo Elleithee turn his luck around with Vince Gray? (Blue Virginia)

A handy guide to the mayoral also-rans, courtesy of P.J. Orvetti (Post)

Eleanor Holmes Norton introduces bill to force federal government to pay storm water fees (WaterWorld)

Obscenity case tossed! (Legal Times)

Houseguests leave couple with $1,200 Pepco bill; neighbors, politicos pitch in to help (Post)

Mary Cheh quoted in national soda-tax story (Time)

"How to Set Up an Office in Washington, D.C." (Inc.)

MPD wants business owners to register their security cameras (NC8)

"Maybe I misunderstand, but is it supposed to be a bad thing that District government is turned around compared to the past 40 years? Are we supposed to be upset that the political machine that gave us Marion Barry is being torn down?" (All Opinions Are Local)

Chandra Levy murder suspect is "extreme flight risk" (Post)

Park police officer plucks dog from Potomac (Post)

Report: New York lawyer being vetted for federal appeals court seat (Legal Times)

Restaurant health inspections now available online! (Health Regulation and Licensing Administration)

Stephen Strasburg to run DCPS? (Answer Sheet)

Shadow rep Mike Panetta asks, "Where's my star?" (WTOP)

Where on the Mall to squeeze a Latino museum? (GGW)

Lorton resident reacts to Gray traffic ticket: "Obviously, Mr. Gray thinks the rules don't apply to him. Even if it was legal, which it isn't, driving around folks who are patiently waiting their turn is the epitome of arrogance." (Post letter)

DDOT to launch parking pilots today (WTOP)

James E. Johnson, 27, was found shot to death early Sunday on unit lock of 58th Street SE (Post)

This was an All Hands on Deck weekend (WTOP)

*** ON THE MENU ***

"Cocktails with Mayor Fenty" -- At-large and council chair candidates debate at St. Elizabeths auditorium, 6:30 p.m. -- Mayoral forum at Mount Rona Baptist, 3431 13th St. NW, 7 p.m.

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 19, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Why Kwame Brown's boat is called 'Bullet Proof'


First of all, is it good public policy for the AG to be providing "normally confidential documents" to the WaPo editorial board?

Second, why would the editorial board use those documents to defend the indefensible (the contract to Banneker that the Council voided because it violated the law regarding Council oversight of large contracts) but FAIL to allow the reader to see that same document? You report, we'll decide.

Third and fourth, when are DeBonis and Stewart going to get those documents from their pals on the editorial board and report on them for the rest of us?

Posted by: Trulee | July 19, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

@Trulee: It seems that the AG provided the "normally confidential" documents to the Council (which has ignored them) and its investigator.

Kwame's personal debt would immediately disqualify him from the entry-level analyst jobs mentioned in today's Top Secret America article, as well as anything in the foreign service. Those employers believe that people with such crushing debt burdens are too readily bought off by foreign espionage organizations. And at least one law school grad, with less personal debt than Kwame, was denied admission to the NY bar; the debt called into question his "character and fitness."

VO might be smarter than Kwame, but his integrity is no better. That's a problem for the city.

Posted by: hungrypug | July 19, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I rail against the use of credit in hiring or selecting candidates.......

But this is not someone who normally pay their bills and lost their job. Mr. Brown had a regular job, mounting debt, ignored the request for funds to his creditors and thought let me buy a boat when finances were tight.

There is something severally wrong with that. And after voting for AMF in 2006 ignoring other warning signs ...I won't this time. This is a major problem. The reports on the other councilmembers seams small.


On the Story of Gray's Fence Coming Down was there a concert by Bruce Springsteen?

Did the squirrel on one side of the fence reunited with his family on the other side?


Oh the issues of public trust!!!!

Posted by: Fatmanny | July 19, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Hungrypug you hit it on the nail. Kwame Brown wouldn't be able to obtain a position at a many of the non-intelligence Federal agencies in this region because they ask for a public trust signature for their low-level positions, too.

We have a right to know the financial statements of DC politicians just like we do for U.S. congress members.

Posted by: mselmo32 | July 19, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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