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Mayor Reed disclosure report shows airport bid refunds | Business

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Mayor Reed disclosure report shows airport bid refunds
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ATLANTA -- New campaign disclosure reports filed this week give a better picture of the debate swirling around valuable airport concessions at Hartsfield Jackson. The filing shows Mayor Kasim Reed's campaign refunded more than $23,000 to contributors who put in airport bids. Still, a controversial Watchdog group says he took seven times that over the last three years.

REPORT | Kasim Reed campaign contributions (Source: Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission)
REPORT | Airport Concessions winning donors (Source: Common Cause Georgia)

On January 5, Mayor Kasim Reed and Common Cause Executive Director William Perry faced off in a heated debate. It quickly became one of the most-watched videos on 11Alive.com. The next day, we put the claims made in that debate to the test.

RELATED | Mayor Reed lashes out at critics of airport concession contracts
RELATED | Reed releases names of concessions panel members

Vetting the Debate

During the debate, Perry said, "Current winners in this bidding process have contributed over $175,000 to the mayor's campaign." Perry provided a list of numbers, but no documentation to back up his claims at the time of our Bull Meter test on January 6.

When Mayor Reed spoke before City Council on January 4, he criticized just such a delay. "See, I'm prepared to come before the Atlanta City Council and put my documents on the table. Not next week. Not in two weeks. Not in a month. Tonight."

Perry, the only full-time staffer at Common Cause, said he's been working to crunch the numbers and verify campaign contributions. Friday, he released the paperwork showing contributors' names and donations. "In any other business, you would say, yes, that's bribery. Unfortunately, when it comes to government, we say, it's politics."

Common Cause linked 11 airport bidders to $176,098 in campaign contributions to Kasim Reed. A Reed spokesman told 11Alive News he refunded all contributions from airport vendors in the first few months of the open procurement period. His new campaign disclosure report filed January 9, shows $23,400 refunded. All of the refunds were filed on a single day: July 15.

Calculating Contributions: Who's a Contributor?

Identifying some contributors is straightforward, like owners of the businesses who placed bids for contracts. Others are harder to connect. Who to include in such a count is, in itself, controversial. "We included business partners, spouses, relatives, anyone related to that particular company," Perry said.

He said people were sending tips to the Common Cause research team to help them connect campaign contributors to airport bids. "We had to interview people, ask questions, Google search and widely search any relationship we could find with the companies."

When forwarded Perry's numbers, a spokesperson for the mayor's office said by e-mail, "Mayor Reed has raised more than $3.9 million in campaign contributions. As we have repeatedly stated, the amount raised by airport vendors is obviously a small amount of the overall dollars he has raised." And "Every one of Mayor Reed's contributions is legal, ethical and fully disclosed. . . The most important point is that none of this suggests that Mayor played any role in the selection of the successful vendors and if Mr. Perry had any integrity, he would back up his smears with facts, but he cannot."

When pressed by 11Alive if he was making any specific accusations about Kasim Reed, Perry was quick to back down. "We are not suggesting that money guided Mayor Reed's decisions in any way. We're not saying that he is corrupt. We're not saying that he's done anything wrong. We're saying that Atlanta has a bad perception when it comes to pay to play and we want to change that."

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