D.C. campaigns explain Mardi Gras expenses

Keep your shirts on, everyone.

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Mardi Gras beads are a popular favor in D.C. campaigns this year. (Photo: Associated Press)

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How many Mardi Gras beads can one campaign buy for $456?

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The curious $456.39 expenditure to a Louisiana-based Mardi Gras store that was listed on Vincent Orange’s recent campaign finance report was just for beads. Orange beads, of course. Multiple cases of them.

Orange campaign staffer Donna Groves, who placed the order for the beads in question, said other local candidates have been handing out the novelties at campaign events and along parade routes this year as well. Orange, a candidate for D.C. Council chairman who has earned the endorsement of The Washington Post, went through those cases of beads pretty quickly, too.

“I know you think that's a lot of beads, but you'd be surprised,” Groves says.

The bead strands, which Groves says totaled about 2,500, lasted only two parades. Most were given away at the Capital Pride parade in June, which didn’t leave many to pass out at the D.C. Caribbean Carnival parade. New beads had to be ordered for the Palisades parade on July 4, says Groves.

“Everybody went crazy for them,” Groves says. “It was surprising how people really like the beads. I don't know that it will get votes, but it's something in the parades that people like to have."

D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray, a candidate for mayor, also did his part to support the Louisiana economy, dropping $300.27 at a New Orleans Mardi Gras store. Campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes says the money also went toward beads, which were a hit for the Gray camp as well.

“They went over very well,” Hughes says. “We threw them to people and they certainly didn’t throw them on the ground, so they were wearing them.”

Hughes says those who have missed out on a chance to grab Gray’s multi-colored, metallic beads might still be able to pick up a strand.

“We give them to people who come by the office,” she says. ”If they like some, they can get some.”

Groves says she picked the Mardi Gras Outlet of Baton Rouge, La., after comparing their prices with a handful of other businesses. She says each strand of beads cost about 18 cents, including shipping. That was a few cents cheaper than another promotional idea — an orange lollipop with “Vote Orange” on the wrapper.

“The lollipop goes away faster,” Groves says. “The beads seemed like a smarter investment.”

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