News & Features » Street Talk (Old)

Wilder Finance Reports Late, Incomplete

Not including the ball, Wilder reports raising $446,000, according to city and state filings, and spent $283,000. Wilder has said he plans to put leftover campaign funds into a political action committee.

Barely two months after Wilder swept into office promising a new era of political accountability at City Hall, the late and incomplete filings raise questions about the former governor's willingness to play by his own rules.

In Wilder's last major campaign finance report, filed Dec. 2 with the city's electoral board, 45 of the 95 political contributions listed lack required information about donors' addresses or occupations. One example: For former state Sen. Joseph B. Benedetti, the only information provided under the heading Name of Employer/Business Occupation of Contributor and Principal Place of Business is "state office."

Wilder was unaware of the late or incomplete filings, he indicated through spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins last week. He referred questions to his policy adviser, Paul Goldman, and his campaign treasurer, Benjamin J. Lambert IV.

Goldman says he completed the report for the Reformer for Mayor PAC and doesn't know what happened. "Somebody else mailed it," he says.

As for the campaign finance reports filed with the city, that paperwork was completed by Lambert, son of the state senator. In his first campaign serving as treasurer, Lambert says he was unaware the forms were incomplete. The city registrar's office, which hasn't reviewed the campaign finance reports for the 2004 election, has yet to identify any problems and notify Lambert.

The state also hasn't completed its review of filings for Jan. 18, although it had not received a report for Wilder's PAC, said Chris Piper, a campaign finance official for the state. There is a $100 civil penalty for late filings, he said.

The incomplete campaign reports are "standard operating procedure" for Wilder, says Larry J. Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. Considering his reform platform for governor and past scandals on City Council, Sabato says Wilder has a responsibility to account for every penny.

"He is the beneficiary of a tidal wave of positive publicity," Sabato says. "But there is a cost. The cost is you must obey the spirit and the letter of the law because everybody is watching."

Sabato referred to Wilder's inaugural ball Jan. 13, 1990 — the year he became the first elected black governor in U.S. history — which apparently raised about $1.8 million according to an analysis by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Wilder has never publicly disclosed how that money — $966,533 after expenses — was spent.

"To this day, he hasn't accounted for it," Sabato says of Wilder, who since has refused to publicly disclose what became of those funds. At the time, there was no state law requiring disclosure of donations raised at gubernatorial balls. A year later, the General Assembly passed such a law.

Wilder has declined to provide Style Weekly with a list of guests or seating arrangements for his inaugural ball in January. Goldman says the mayor plans to release how much was raised "at the appropriate time in the near future," but couldn't provide any more specifics. State law requiring disclosure of donations at gubernatorial inaugurals doesn't extend to mayoral balls.

As for the incomplete campaign filings, Lambert says he did his best with the information provided. Mostly, he says, information was pulled directly from the checks his campaign received, some of which were incomplete. "In good faith, we tried to get every address," Lambert says. — Scott Bass

Add a comment