Metro Official Shows Political Prowess; Donated $200,000 to Campaigns across Region

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Metro's new $160,000-a-year chief information officer, Suzanne J. Peck, quietly has emerged a powerful political insider in recent years, sending at least $200,000 in political contributions to local, state and federal campaigns.

Since 1999, Mrs. Peck has contributed to dozens of politicians and their causes, from city school board and D.C. Council contests to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Philadelphia mayoral race, according to campaign-finance records.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Peck's name surfaced in Philadelphia, where the city's ethics board found she gave $20,000 in improper contributions to Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat running for mayor. Under a settlement deal, he must now return the money.

Through a lawyer, Mrs. Peck said the contribution to Mr. Fattah was not illegal and that the mayoral candidate did not admit wrongdoing under the settlement deal.

"It was more technical than anything," said Mrs. Peck's attorney, Robert Spagnoletti, who until last year had been the District's attorney general.

He said Mrs. Peck gave a $20,000 contribution to Mr. Fattah's exploratory committee, but the check came three days after he declared his candidacy. According to the ethics board, Mr. Fattah agreed to return the funds because his exploratory committee accepted the money after he officially declared his candidacy.

Giving mostly to Democratic candidates and causes, Mrs. Peck's donations have gone largely to state and federal candidates in Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District.

Mrs. Peck became Metro's new chief information officer last month, after earning $144,538 as chief technology officer for the D.C. government under former Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Before her work in public service, Mrs. Peck held high-ranking executive positions at Sallie Mae and Corestates Financial Corp., which is now Wachovia.

Mr. Spagnoletti said Mrs. Peck provides political donations to progressive candidates she thinks are good managers.

"The country has been good to her, and she believes in being good to the country," he said.

Mrs. Peck has contributed heavily in Pennsylvania political campaigns, including high-profile gubernatorial and mayoral contests, as well as races that haven't attracted much attention. …