The race for mayor of Bloomington took one candidate six hundred miles from City Hall last night.
John Hamilton, one of three Democratic candidates for mayor, held a fund raiser at Mandu Restaurant in Washington, D.C., about a mile from the U.S. Capitol building. The event was co-hosted by several prominent Democrats, including some high-profile lobbyists and public officials. Hamilton told WFHB that while the fundraiser was held far from Bloomington, the crowd had ties to Indiana.
“There is a regular group of Hoosiers who have transplanted to D.C….and welcome Hoosier candidates of many kinds to talk,” Hamilton said. “They asked whether I would do it and I said, ‘Sure.’”
Among the co-hosts listed for the event was Brad Queisser, a lobbyist with mCapitol Management in Washington. mCapitol did $2.6 million of lobbying work last year for unions, cities and companies. That included $100,000 of work for Crowe Horwath, an accounting and consulting firm that frequently contracts with the Bloomington city government.
Another co-host was Joel Riethmiller, a lobbyist whose firm did $220,000 of work last year for the Cook Group, a medical device company based in Bloomington.
When asked if he would accept campaign contributions from lobbyists, Hamilton reiterated his pledge not to accept money directly from corporations.
“I don’t accept any money from a corporation or a PAC (political action committee) which is focused on a particular issue,” Hamilton said. “As long as it’s a human being that is supporting my cause for progressive values and good jobs and strong public education…I’ll take support from that individual.”
Other co-hosts of the fund raiser last night included Anne Andrews, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, and Ron Klain, an attorney who President Obama appointed as Ebola Response Coordinator amid the beginning of the disease outbreak last year.
So far, Hamilton is the only one of the three Democrats running for mayor to acknowledge holding a fund raiser outside Indiana. But he’s not the only one to accept out-of-state contributions to his campaign. Darryl Neher is another of the three candidates.
“I’ve accepted money from out of state, but its from close friends, people whom I have know for years,” Neher said.
Andy Downs, with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said it’s not unusual to see candidates for local office taking campaign money from far away.
“If, for example, you went to college outside of the state, you develop a network of friends who might want to support you when you’re running for office,” Downs explains. “What people begin to question is when you go to raise money outside the state, and you’re doing it in a lobbyist’s office or you’re doing it in a law firm…and then people start to think, ‘OK, wait a minute, those folks have obvious interests beyond their person interests in you as an individual, is this going to cause us a problem down the road?’”
The third candidate for mayor, John Linnemeier, says he has accepted no money from outside Indiana. Linnemeier says he’s only raised about $2,000 for his campaign so far. He says the candidates should not have to focus so much on money.
“I don’t even have a tab on my website that tells you how to donate,” Linnemeier said. “I mean, how many people are in Bloomington? We’re all pretty much one degree of separation from each other. I just think it’s absolutely unnecessary. And what’s worse than that is it has the possibility of corruption or the perception of it.”
So far, there are no publicly-available documents showing exactly how the mayoral candidates have been paying for their campaigns. That changes next week, when candidates are required to declare all of their campaign contributions and expenses.