Newcomer Leads D.C. Special Election Money Race

The first campaign finance reports for the At-Large D.C. Council special election are out.

The undisputed winner is Matthew Frumin.


Frumin, an international trade lawyer, is a newcomer to citywide District politics. He is not, however, a greenhorn. In 2000, Frumin ran for Congress in Michigan. He also raised political money during the Clinton years.

The Rolodex he built paid off to the tune of $72,000 (Frumin has spent an additional $10,000 of his own money on the race). His campaign finance report is packed with attorneys, lobbyists, government officials, real estate developers and other deep pockets. He also successfully tapped neighbors, friends and family.

$82,000 is a lot of money in a District special election. Still, Frumin will need every dime of it and probably a bunch more. He is very much unknown outside his neighborhood in Ward Three where he serves as an ANC commissioner.

“Big money” is big news in politics, but so is “no money.” In that category, former Council member Michael A. Brown wins the booby prize. Brown reported raising a mere $9,500.

In 2012, Brown lost his re-election bid amidst a still unsolved scandal: the theft of more than $100,000 from his campaign coffers. Some observers have speculated that donors might be wary of contributing to Brown's comeback bid.

Elissa Silverman, a budget analyst on leave from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute who is better known as a former Loose Lips reporter, turned in a solid report. Silverman raised more than $37,000, all of which came from individual donors.

Silverman, who helped lead a failed initiative to ban corporate money from District campaigns, is not accepting money from businesses or PACs. She and Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd are the only candidates in the race to have made that pledge.

Redd raised $775 and added $125 of his own money.

Paul Zukerberg, an attorney who is running on a platform that includes decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, raised $9,550.

On Wednesday, Zukerberg put on quite a performance at the first debate of the campaign season. He was the only contestant to receive a round of applause from the audience and did so twice. Zukerberg displayed knowledge of District politics and policy well beyond the single issue for which his candidacy has been defined to date. His personality, evocative of Ed Koch (R.I.P.), shined through on what was otherwise a boring forum.

Rounding out the field of candidates, interim-Council member Anita Bonds, Board of Education representative Pat Mara and John Settles have not filed or announced fundraising totals.

Via twitter, Mara said that the District campaign finance reporting system failed and that he received official clearance to file today.

UPDATE: All candidates have now reported their fundraising totals for the period ending January 31: Mara $20,000; Settles $7,745; Bonds $6,045.

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