Thursday, February 14, 2008


Spent too much time on blog-related matters last weekend, so I really can't put the time and effort into this that I'd like.

Since the Mayor's Communication Director complains about a lack of context in a recent Times Picayune item, I thought it would be appropriate to add some context to some other recent reporting. As you read, or hear, reports about the mayor's recent fund raising, try to remember the mayor's campaign commercials in which he insinuated that businesses that contributed to his opponent must have been motivated by a desire for city contracts.

I've already discussed Lee Zurik's report on the mayor's fund raising activities, Frank Donze followed with a report in today's Picayune. Individually, each made a stronger connection between the mayor's fund raising and city contracts than anything we'd seen before. Together, they make an unmistakable impression.

I don't want to be overly critical of either report (I was impressed with both), but even taken together, the two reports understate the case. For example, Donze informs us that "more than 10 percent of the money Nagin raised last year came from the city's three major trash haulers," and Zurik informed us that Jimmie Woods, of Metro Disposal, is part owner of other businesses with city contracts. However, neither mentioned that SDT's major sub-contractor and its parent company (link) are both Nagin donors.

As hard-hitting as this is:
More than a third of Nagin's contributions last year came from architects and engineers who do business with the city. All told, 33 such firms and individuals donated $74,500 to Nagin's war chest, with most giving $2,500.

In addition, Nagin raked in $8,750 from insurance brokers who share in commissions from city insurance contracts. The group includes the firms Fulton Johnson Newman & Pittman and Swanson & Associates, as well as brokers Felton Walter and Charles Kennedy.

Meanwhile, individuals and companies sharing in a city contract to collect delinquent property taxes and hold annual tax sales contributed a total of $6,000.

I still believe that Donze understates the case, but it would have been impossible for Donze to describe each donor individually*.

Still, take away firms and individuals who do business with the city, and you won't find many donors left that aren't from the Kansas City area (I'm assuming that the Kansas and Missouri towns that I'm unfamiliar with are in the KC area). This brings me to my one objection to Donze's report:
The campaign finance report also cleared up lingering questions about a fund raiser Nagin held last summer in Kansas City, Mo. Nagin has dodged questions about the out-of-town event, which brought in about $9,900, according to the filing.

It might have cleared up some questions, but it raised more. Even if none of the KC donors gave much, the number is intriguing. I assume that most attended the mayor's KC fund raiser, but there's still the question of why Nagin had a fund raiser in Kansas City in the first place.

Offhand, I can only think of three connections between New Orleans and Kansas City. Hank Stram died a few years ago and I doubt that Anthony Amato hosted the fundraiser. That leaves me wondering how many of the KC fundraiser attendees were MWH subcontractors.

Before you dismiss the MWH connection out of hand, note that Donze reports:
The report by CHANGE Inc. showed that two Kansas City companies helped stage the fundraiser. Black & Veatch Corp., which has done work for the Sewerage & Water Board, supplied food and beverage services worth about $2,600, while Walton Construction Co. provided entertainment worth $800, according to the report.

The filing also showed that CHANGE Inc. gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to Kansas City mayoral candidate Alvin Brooks.

CHANGE Inc. listed a $2,500 contribution in 2007 from Montgomery Watson Harza, the engineering management firm that received a $6 million contract last month from the Nagin administration to coordinate the work of architects, engineers and building contractors hired by the city to fix flood-damaged public buildings and parks.

I would add that Nagin's report contains a contribution from "Friends of Terry Riley for City Council." Did you click that last link?

Update: Of course, Donze mentioned the more obvious connection between N.O. and K.C., Black & Veatch is headquartered in K.C. and does do work for the S.&W.B. MWH does much more, however.

*interesting connection.

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And people wonder why we're so pissed that Oliver didn't name names.
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