A controversial political action committee that supports D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's agenda has received some of its biggest checks from individuals and companies that are connected to more than $70 million in contracts from the District government, according to a WAMU 88.5 analysis of city records.
Fresh PAC, which is taking advantage of a campaign finance law that allows such groups to raise unlimited funds during off-year elections, has received a total of more than $100,000 from about a dozen firms that do business with the D.C. government or are closely associated with companies that do. The PAC's activities are allowing record amounts of money to flow into D.C. elections in a way that hasn’t been seen before, prompting a backlash from D.C. Council members and the editorial board of The Washington Post.
The contributions include two checks for $10,000 from a company called First Veitch Street Corporation. While no such company has received contracts from D.C., records show Veitch Street has the same address and the same directors as Fort Myer Construction, a major city contractor. Fort Myer has been paid at least $40 million by the city for street paving and other work, according to the most-up-to-date contracting records. Fort Myer did not reply to an email inquiry from WAMU.
Fresh PAC officials say the money will likely be spent during next year’s Council races to help candidates that support the Democratic mayor's agenda. Opponents of the unlimited fundraising say it perpetuates the image of a "pay to play" culture in D.C. politics. PACs can spend their money however they like, but they cannot coordinate directly with any candidate or campaign.
Other donors to Fresh PAC that have won city contracts include several more big-name construction firms, health care companies, and a marketing firm, Octane, with ties to Bowser’s campaign for mayor.
The owner of Octane, Everett Hamilton, says he helped Bowser's campaign buy TV ads in 2014 as an unpaid volunteer.
Octane began doing work for the city long before Bowser took office. The company has won contracts for marketing campaigns and other programs "for over 10 years through 4 administrations starting with Mayor Anthony Williams," Hamilton wrote in an email.
The company recently won a contract to coordinate Fit DC, Bowser’s fitness challenge encouraging residents to walk a billion steps. According to Octane, the contract is worth roughly $500,000 and was competitively bid. Hamilton says Octane ran a similar program during previous administrations.
The Bowser administration did not return requests for comment.
Eleven of the largest donors to Fresh PAC have received more than $70 million total in contracts from the D.C. government.
|First Veitch Street Corporation/Fort Myer Construction
|Facchina Construction Company Inc.
|The Keystone Plus Construction Corporation
|Blue Skye Construction, LLC
|D.C. Health Care Inc.
|Capital Services Management
|Veterans Services Corporation
|Premier Health Services Inc.
|District of Columbia Hospital Association
Contracting amounts: D.C.'s Office Of Contracting and Procurement's July 2015 report. PAC contributions: D.C.'s Office of Campaign Finance; the donation totals include money from individuals and corporations.