As Ethics Bill Waits, Fundraisers Roll along; Alexander Party Hosted by Wal-Mart Lobbyist

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeffrey Anderson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Washington lobbyist-developer-parking services provider David W. Wilmot and D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, along with other city contractors, will co-host a fundraiser for council member Yvette M. Alexander on Monday night at the home of D.C. developer Pedro Alfonso.

The event comes just after the filing deadline for campaign finance disclosures and as the D.C. Council awaits a second vote on an ethics bill crafted by Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, that aims to reform pay-to-play politics.

But even with its stricter penalties for ethics violations, enhanced disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and limits on the use of constituent-service funds, the Bowser bill would not explicitly prohibit Mr. Wilmot from directly lobbying officials for whom he raises money - though Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, had advocated for such a prohibition but received little support.

The fundraiser for Ms. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, also comes on the heels of a fundraiser Mr. Wilmot held for Ms. Bowser, and as Mr. Wilmot's client Wal-Mart seeks to build six stores in the District - two in Ms. Alexander's ward and one in Ms. Bowser's ward.

In recent weeks, Mr. Wilmot's fundraising activities have benefited several council members who represent wards where Wal-Mart seeks to build - such as Ms. Alexander and Ms. Bowser - or who face either ethics questions or potential criminal prosecution.

Last week, he was clutching a yellow legal pad and pacing the halls of the John A. Wilson Building while the council held a hearing to discuss the fate of Harry Thomas Jr., whose home was searched recently for eight hours by FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents. Mr. Thomas has agreed to pay the city $300,000 he raised through a nonprofit group to promote athletic events for children and could be facing criminal charges in the coming weeks or months.

Mr. Wilmot reportedly helped the Ward 5 Democrat, where Wal-Mart is building a store, raise money for his legal defense team, which includes former council member John Ray, attorney Abbe Lowell and Mr. Wilmot's business partner, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., another lobbyist with business before the city who frequently represents D.C. politicians.

It's unclear the extent the Bowser bill, if passed, would require politicians to disclose the sources of such fundraising and also their fee arrangements with lawyers such as Mr. Wilmot and Mr. Cooke.

Mr. Wilmot and Mr. Cooke did not return calls or emails asking for comment.

Mr. Wilmot's other fundraising activities of late have benefited council members with oversight of city business conducted by his clients and friends, while some of those friends also have shown sudden interest in Ms. Bowser.

In addition to the Sept. 13 fundraiser Mr. …