Sherwood’s Notebook: More Scandal…and the ’Skins

Tom Lindenfeld

Summer’s over.

Here are a couple of Labor Day weekend matters that disrupted our relaxation.

■ Scandal. With more than a few years in the journalism business, you’d think political surprises would tend to become ho-hum.

They don’t.

More than a few journalists and assorted others are SMH (“shaking my head”) at the ugly turn of events for master political consultant Tom Lindenfeld.

Democratic mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser abruptly and publicly dumped her veteran adviser last week as soon as Lindenfeld’s name publicly surfaced in a federal criminal investigation into the 2007 Philadelphia mayor’s race.

Pennsylvania prosecutors are tracing allegations that a $1 million loan was funneled through Lindenfeld’s consulting business to aid the ultimately failed mayoral campaign of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who finished fourth in the city’s Democratic primary.

“I’m quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia today,” Bowser said in a statement just hours after the Washington City Paper’s Will Sommer broke the news. “I have the highest expectations of transparency from my campaign team; Tom no longer has a role on the campaign.”
Lindenfeld, who has a movie-ready personality and a career resume of local and national campaigns including for a man named Barack Obama, has been golden in D.C.

Lindenfeld guided the 1998 campaign for Tony Williams. He did the same for Adrian Fenty in 2006 and tried again in 2010 but we know how that turned out. He was expecting to get back in the winner’s circle with Bowser in 2014.

In 2007, while he also was working that Philly mayor’s race, Lindenfeld had guided Bowser’s winning first run for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat as Fenty’s designated successor. And Lindenfeld was deep into voter identification and turnout efforts for the current Bowser campaign. In midsummer, the gruff and quotable consultant faded from the campaign without public comment.

And now he is out.

Contacted over the weekend by NBC4, Lindenfeld declined comment — something so unusual. So again, we’re SMH.

■ ’Skins back to RFK? The owner of the Washington region’s storied NFL football team has created the chance for the biggest sport “jump ball” in recent history. (And yes, we’re purposely mixing a basketball phrase in here.)

The “jump ball” is Dan Snyder’s public declaration on Comcast SportsNet that he is considering building a new domed stadium in either the District or the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Let the competition begin. In other words, FedEx Field is toast. Snyder has never liked it or its location.

Most observers believe the District’s underused RFK site is Snyder’s favored location for a 65,000- to 75,000-seat stadium. The era of megawatt seating is over. There’d be standing room for maybe another 15,000 or so fans.

Every D.C. mayor since Williams has said they’d bring the team back to the city under the right circumstances. Translated, that means the team would have to pay for the stadium construction; no more city gifts like the Nats stadium for the Lerners. The city would still spend millions on site preparation.

There are two big obstacles beyond the issue of financing.

The people who live in the neighborhoods flanking the stadium want to be included in the area’s redevelopment. They want neighborhood retail, shopping and plenty of park space, not parking lots. The Capitol East families and other neighborhoods want to benefit from any development, not suffer from it.

Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, one of the city’s most unabashed supporters of getting the team back in town, says all of the needs and wants of the neighborhoods can coexist with having the ’Skins back. But the neighborhoods might as well be called Missouri — you’re going to have to show them.

And last, but nowhere least, is the team name. The city leaders are on the record: They want the name changed or it’s a deal-breaker. Politically, it would be hard, if not impossible, to get the city to buy into the controversy surrounding the name.

We’ll end on an upbeat note. The team owner has said publicly he will “never” change the name.

He may be disliked by many people for many reasons, but Snyder is a smart businessman.

“Never” may be more negotiable than many of us think.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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