De­vel­op­ers, Builders Among Largest Con­nolly Con­trib­u­tors

The Washington Post Sunday - - Obituaries - By Bill Turque

Fair­fax County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Ger­ald E. Con­nolly has re­ceived more than a third of his cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from the real es­tate de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries, ac­cord­ing to fi­nan­cial re­ports.

Con­nolly (D), who is run­ning for a sec­ond term, is the top fundraiser on the lo­cal level in North­ern Vir­ginia, the re­ports show. He has amassed $311,700 from de­vel­op­ers and builders, which is 38.5 per­cent of the $808,293 he has raised since the be­gin­ning of 2004, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis con­ducted for The Wash­ing­ton Post by the non­profit Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project.

The anal­y­sis is likely to give new im­pe­tus to charges that Con­nolly is too close to the county’s de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity, which Con­nolly dis­putes. Real es­tate and con­struc­tion in­ter­ests are Con­nolly’s most gen­er­ous sup­port­ers by far, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports, sur­pass­ing com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als in tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ($103,830), the le­gal com­mu­nity ($69,057), re­tail and ser­vice busi­nesses ($58,490) and pub­lic em­ploy­ees ($43,065).

The least ac­tive donor groups were in the health-care ($5,313) and de­fense ($4,810) sec­tors, ac­cord­ing to the anal­y­sis by the Rich­mond-based group, which will post its find­ings to­mor­row of cam­paign spend­ing in Fair­fax, Loudoun and Prince William coun­ties on its Web site, Vpap.org.

Among the largest con­trib­u­tors to Con­nolly are ma­jor landown­ers in Tysons Cor­ner — Lerner Corp. and the WestGroup. They have helped give Con­nolly an over­whelm­ing fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage over his two op­po­nents in the Novem­ber elec­tions, Re- publi­can Gary H. Baise and In­de­pen­dent Glenda “Gail” Parker. Baise, who for­mally en­tered the race only a few weeks ago, re­ports $10,400, nearly all of it his own money. Parker re­ports $110.

Con­nolly said Fri­day he has not done his own anal­y­sis of his fund­ing and that he has no way of know­ing whether the Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project is ac­cu­rate. He did say, how­ever, that the em­pha­sis on de­vel­op­ment money gives a skewed pic­ture of his sup­port.

“I think my con­tri­bu­tions show broad busi­ness sup­port across a wide spec­trum,” he said. “To fo­cus on one as­pect of the donor base dis­torts it. A fair state­ment would be that I’ve raised a lot of money from hun­dreds of donors across a broad spec­trum of the pub­lic.”

Baise, a Wash­ing­ton lawyer who rep­re­sents cor­po­rate clients in en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­i­ga­tion, said he wasn’t sur­prised by the Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project’s find­ings. “The anal­y­sis I want to see is how close the dates of th­ese con­tri­bu­tions are to votes the board took on ap­pli­ca­tions [for re­zon­ing].” Baise said he had no spe­cific ex­am­ples of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions that di­rectly fol­lowed fa­vor­able votes.

Con­nolly said there are none. “No­body is able to cite a sin­gle ex­am­ple of a quid pro quo for any­body,” Con­nolly said. “I don’t op­er­ate that way.”

James Hy­land, new chair­man of the Fair­fax County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee, said Con­nolly’s num­bers rep­re­sented “lo­cal fund­ing on steroids” and an at­tempt to place county pol­i­tics on a big-money, ur­ban foot­ing. “This will be the first mil­lion-dol­lar chair­man’s race,” Hy­land said. “He’s act­ing like a big-city mayor. . . . I sense there is some anx­i­ety about the di­rec­tion we’re mov­ing in.”

Con­nolly, who raised about $750,000 for his 2003 cam­paign against Repub­li­can My­chele B. Brick­ner, said large parts of Fair­fax will al­ways re­main sub­ur­ban and rural. But he is seek­ing $1 mil­lion for this cam­paign year be­cause the size of the county de­mands it.

“I rep­re­sent the equiv­a­lent of two con­gres­sional dis­tricts,” he said. “It’s a big me­dia mar­ket and try­ing to reach peo­ple is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive.”

Baise said he was ar­rang­ing a se­ries of fundrais­ers over the next sev­eral weeks, and that his tar­get was $500,000 to $600,000.

The Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project, founded in 1997, is a non­par­ti­san or­ga­ni­za­tion that uses in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to im­prove pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of the role money plays in Vir­ginia pol­i­tics. It takes cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion re­ports filed by can­di­dates and as­signs each donor one of 200 oc­cu­pa­tional codes. Th­ese are based ei­ther on de­scrip­tions pro­vided by the cam­paigns or on the Vir­ginia Pub­lic Ac­cess Project’s re­search, which can in­clude con­sul­ta­tions with cam­paign staffs, on­line searches, or, in some in­stances, phone calls to donors.

Not all con­tri­bu­tions can be ac­counted for. The group said it was un­able to as­sign an oc­cu­pa­tion code to Con­nolly cam­paign do­na­tions to­tal­ing $15,714.

The group used more than a dozen oc­cu­pa­tional cat­e­gories to de­ter­mine Con­nolly’s real es­tate and de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity sup­port. Th­ese in­cluded ar­chi­tects, en­gi­neers, prop­erty man­agers, home builders, gen­eral con­trac­tors, real es­tate agents, land-use at­tor­neys and ti­tle com­pa­nies.

Tysons Cor­ner land in­ter­ests fig­ured promi­nently in con­tri­bu­tions to Con­nolly. Do­na­tions to­tal­ing more than $14,000 came from ex­ec­u­tives of the WestGroup, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Ger­ald T. Halpin, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent John C. Ulfelder and Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Donna P. Shafer. Lerner Corp., which will soon start build­ing the first of eight of­fice tow­ers at Tysons Cor­ner, con­trib­uted $17,500. Wil­morite Prop­erty Man­age­ment, which op­er­ates Tysons Cor­ner mall, do­nated $10,000.

Cyrus J. Katzen, a den­tist-turned-de­vel­oper who played a ma­jor role in the growth of Tysons and Bai­leys Cross­roads, has con­trib­uted $35,000 to Con­nolly since 2004. Wash­ing­ton Group In­ter­na­tional, an en­gi­neer­ing firm that is part of Dulles Tran­sit Part­ners, the con­sor­tium that will build the Metro rail ex­ten­sion to Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port, do­nated $4,000.

Other mem­bers of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors are re­ly­ing heav­ily on the real es­tate and con­struc­tion sec­tor for cam­paign funds. Nearly half of the $102,659 raised by Su­per­vi­sor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) has come from those oc­cu­pa­tional cat­e­gories, as do just un­der 37 per­cent of Su­per­vi­sor Pene­lope A. Gross’s (D-Ma­son) $140,779. Data­base ed­i­tor Derek Wil­lis of Wash­ing­ton Post-Newsweek Interactive con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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