D.C. lawmakers, lobbyists talked nearly 600 times

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Members of the D.C. Council were in contact with lobbyists 599 times during the first six months of 2012, a Washington Examiner analysis of public records shows.

In disclosure reports filed in recent days, dozens of companies, trade groups and nonprofits -- including AT&T, D.C. United, Pepco and Walmart -- acknowledged their encounters with District lawmakers. Staff members had hundreds more interactions.

The analysis found the average D.C. legislator who is still in office had 44 contacts with registered lobbyists during the six-month span. That figure fell to 43 contacts when the engagements of former Council Chairman Kwame Brown and ousted Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. were included.

Busy calendar
Members of the D.C. Council communicated with lobbyists 599 times in the first half of 2012. Here are the top five:
Council member Number of contacts
1. Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) 71 contacts
2. Jack Evans (Ward 2) 67 contacts
T-3. Kwame Brown (chairman) 61 contacts
T-3. Phil Mendelson (chairman/at-large) 61 contacts
5. Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) 55 contacts
Note: Kwame Brown resigned in June.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, who chairs the committee that was considering legislation to allow exterior signage at the Verizon Center, had 71 contacts with lobbyists, more than any other lawmaker.

Lobbyists representing Monumental Sports & Entertainment -- the Ted Leonsis-controlled conglomerate that owns the Verizon Center -- reached out to Alexander on 14 occasions, but Alexander also had regular meetings with, among others, the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C. and the DC Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm here as a public servant, so everyone knows that my door is open," Alexander said. "I meet with the most lobbyists, yet I raise the least amount of money. ... I've been one of the lowest fundraisers, so they don't pay me."

More than a quarter of lobbyists' contacts with lawmakers -- 157 interactions -- came from David Wilmot, a lawyer whose office is steps from the John A. Wilson Building. His clients included Anheuser-Busch and the D.C. Association of Health Plans.

In early February, city records show, Wilmot reached out to Thomas on behalf of seven companies. Surprising, since Thomas had resigned in January after pleading guilty to stealing more than $353,000 in money earmarked for youth programs.

Wilmot did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday, and Thomas is serving a 38-month prison term in Alabama.

At-large Councilman Michael Brown, who works with a lobbying firm, said he did not have any objections to organizations reaching out to power brokers.

"I think lobbying is part of the legislative process," Brown said. "And it's not just lobbying for businesses."

Brown said nonprofit, nonpartisan groups regularly seek council support.

Examiner Staff Writer Liz Farmer contributed to this report.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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