Vince Gray Raises $627,000 for Reelection Campaign in First Seven Weeks

Despite getting in to the DC mayoral race months everyone else, it didn’t take long for the incumbent to catch up to his better-funded rivals.

By: Benjamin Freed

When Mayor Vince Gray finally decided to run for another term in early December, his campaign team boasted of being able to raise $1 million by the January 31 fundraising deadline. Gray didn’t quite make it to that plateau, but he still pulled off an impressive financial sprint in just seven weeks, raising $627,062 to bring him up to speed with his leading rivals, Council members Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, and Tommy Wells.

Bowser still holds the financial edge, with $791,080 on hand going into the final two months of the Democratic primary, and Evans, after curtailing his heavy-spending ways, is at $685,492. Meanwhile, Wells continues to rely strictly on the support of individual donors, although he has finally surpassed half a million dollars in total fundraising.

Aside from Wells, who is shunning corporate contributions, the fundraising hauls show that city politics are still heavily dependent on corporate money, especially through exploiting a loophole through which people and businesses can give far beyond the individual $2,000 limit by giving through a limited liability corporation. The DC Council recently voted to close the loophole, but the legislation does not take effect until 2015.

Muriel Bowser: $165,958 raised; $791,080 on hand

Bowser’s cumulative fundraising passed $1 million, with $1,217,503 raked in since she announced her run last March, and while she continues to have the most money on hand, her spending is ramping up. Bowser’s campaign spent $130,897 since December 10, including $12,425 in postage, so if you haven’t received a “Muriel for Mayor” pamphlet in the mail yet, it’s probably on its way.

Jack Evans: $198,175 raised; $685,492 on hand

The last time the campaigns filed their fundraising reports, Evans couldn’t burn through his donations fast enough, spending bales of cash on enough lamppost signs to make the city appear, as his campaign manager put it, as if it had “barfed up Jack Evans.” But now, his campaign has finally learned frugality, dropping only $95,180 in the last seven weeks. Evans’s fundraising base continues to be full of bankers and lawyers, as well as developers like Jim Abdo, who gave $500, and Jair Lynch, who contributed $250. He also seems to be winning the sandwich primary, with Jetties, the savory Foxhall mainstay, giving $100.

Vince Gray: $627,062; $560,818 on hand

It’s not $1 million, but it’s still pretty good catch-up for a campaign that launched several months after its closest competitors. But just who is funding Gray this time around? Dozens of top city officials, including embattled fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe, City Administrator Allen Lew, and the Chief of Staff Chris Murphy giving the maximum of $2,000. And his spending has been extremely limited at just $66,244. Gray's 2010 campaign remains the subject of a federal investigation amid allegations that it was aided by a "shadow campaign" funded by $653,000 in unreported money.

Tommy Wells: $90,534 raised; $169,579 on hand.

Relying only on individual contributions means Wells’s fundraising will lag far behind his opponents’ but at least it makes for spicy quotes. “The others represent the corrupt status quo that has left too many residents behind and halted progressive change in DC,” he said in a press release accompanying his latest finance report. But Wells is also starting to watch his expenses, spending just $53,586 in the last fundraising period. Wells might have noble intentions, but at a cost—each successive fundraising report has shown him taking in a bit less.

Andy Shallal: $103,308 raised; $99,309 on hand.

The Busboys and Poets restaurateur might have an eclectic collection of celebrity endorsers—Danny Glover, George Pelecanos, Peter Yarrow—but his campaign is beginning to look like less of a “tale of two cities,” as Shallal likes to say in stump speeches, and more of a vanity project. Shallal gave his campaign another $50,000, bringing his personal financial stake in the enterprise to $95,000. He also spent $97,272 over the past seven weeks, a figure that would make his campaign look reckless had he not shored it up with his own money.

Vincent Orange: $43,319 raised; $87,866 on hand

Orange’s fundraising continues to be sluggish, although he has managed to plaster the city in campaign signs. But once again, his fundraising report is an excellent example of the LLC loophole. He received five $2,000 contributions from a single office suite in RockvillePotomac but five distinct corporate entities. Like Evans and Bowser, Orange voted to close the loophole, but is taking advantage of it as long as it is open.

Reta Jo Lewis: $55,472 raised; $30,296 on hand

Lewis, a former State Department official with ties to the Clinton machine, is spending money—$79,748 over the last seven weeks—faster than she can raise it. Coupled with her painfully awkward interviews and debate appearances, a sinking fundraising effort could have her out of the race before the April 1 primary.