Records show mayor received donations before airport bid process

ATLANTA,None — Channel 2 Action News has obtained documents that raise questions about campaign contributions made by winning vendors at Atlanta's airport.

Mayor Kasim Reed has said he returned money received from vendors during the procurement process.

But Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer found records showing many contributed tens of thousands of dollars just days before that process started.

Record show March 17 of last year was a very good fundraising day for Reed.

Late Friday afternoon Fleischer asked him why he only started returning campaign funds received from airport vendors four days after March 17.

He returned $22,000, but he kept more than $50,000, which Channel 2 Action News has also tied to people who had or wanted those airport contracts.

"I know I played no role in the selection of these firms whether they contributed to me or not," Reed told Fleischer.

Reed said it was only out of an abundance of transparency that he made the decision to give back all of the money people who wanted airport vendor contracts donated to him during the procurement period.

That period stretched from March 21 through June 30. But Channel 2 has learned four days before that window opened, Reed took in more than $292,000 on March 17.

"That's a lot of money for a single day no matter the circumstances," political consultant Bill Crane said.

Crane has spent more than 25 years working in campaigns, including fundraising.

Fleischer showed him Reed's campaign financial disclosures which show dozens of those March 17 donations came from vendors who later won lucrative airport contracts. Their campaign donations totaled at least $57,000.

"It starts to not pass the smell test if you have an active fundraising period that's concurrent with the bid process because if nothing else it looks bad," Crane said.

Fleischer asked Reed, "Would you consider giving back the $57,000?"

"Absolutely not," Reed said.

Reed said he used the best judgment he could when deciding on a time period from which to return the money, the procurement phase.

Fleischer asked why not include the solicitation phase the week before March 16, when the airport presented the concessions program, through March 18, when the solicitations were advertised. The fundraiser was the 17th.

"This was a group of individuals who wanted to do an event for me, that date was chosen by them," Reed said.

"Given the history of Hartsfield airport's concessions, prior convictions on the federal level, litigation the city has lost, I would have erred to the side of transparency on any fundraising that even touched airport concessionaires," Crane said.

The mayor said he was being overly transparent and the law did not require him to give back any of the money he received.
Fleischer is still going through the list of donations. Some were made by family members of those airport vendors, so they can be difficult to track.

The total amount could be even higher. The retail and food vendor contracts at the airport total more than $3 billion.