Thies: “Murky” Candidate in D.C. At-Large Campaign

"The question... maybe I should have just ducked it."

"It's a murky answer, but that's my answer."

Who among the seven candidates running for at-large D.C. Council would say such things?

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Matthew Frumin.

In January, I interviewed Frumin on the WPFW radio program, D.C. Politics.

I asked him a question I put to all candidates running for Council: Will you have outside employment while in office?

Frumin replied, "Count on Chuck to ask the hard question."

That's a "hard question"? Asking a candidate if he intends to focus his energy on the people who elected him is not a “hard question.”

Unless, of course, the candidate is uncomfortable with the answer.

Frumin's response was fidgety, hesitant and a bit incoherent. He was right to call it “murky.”

(You can listen to the segment here.)

Frumin hemmed and hawed his way through parts of his résumé, volunteer commitments, conflict of interest disclaimers and some details about a legal matter involving Whirlpool washing machines.

Would everything come out in the wash?

In the District, it is lawful for Council members to hold outside employment. It is also a hotly debated issue. Eliminating side jobs is one of the “ethics reform” measures that the Council consistently rejects.

Frumin’s final answer to my question was a non-answer. He said he would decide after the election.

Questions left unanswered until after the votes are counted -- that doesn’t sound very promising.

But alas, voters will not have to wait until after the April 23 special election.

In recent debates, Frumin has stated that he will keep his second job if elected.

At least you can’t say the guy is lazy. But you can wonder whether his second job will interfere with serving 600,000 District residents.

Frumin is not alone in the outside employment racket. Other candidates in the race are hip on additional revenue streams, too.

Michael A. Brown, who is mounting a comeback bid after being defeated in November 2012, worked as a lobbyist during his four-year tenure on the Council.

Anita Bonds, who was appointed to temporarily serve on the Council, is on leave from her position as corporate relations director for Fort Myer Construction Company.

The District pays Fort Myer tens of millions of dollars every year for paving, maintenance and other construction work.

Bonds has equivocated on whether or not she will go back to work for Fort Myer if elected. She has said she will be a “full-time” Council member, but has not categorically ruled out a side job.

When interviewed by WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi, Bonds’s answers were so vague Nnamdi interjected, “You have some wiggle room in there: probably and most-likely.”

There are four candidates in the race who have said they will not hold a side job: Patrick Mara, Perry Redd, Elissa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg.

The non-partisan special election for at-large Council is April 23.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East , China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on twitter: @ChuckThies.

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