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March 21, 2013

D.C. Council Should Ban Campaign Contributions From Government Contractors

With Pay-to-Play Scandals Pounding at the City’s Door, Council Should Act, Public Citizen Testifies to Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The District of Columbia should adopt ethics reforms that would prohibit campaign contributions and expenditures by government contractors in D.C. elections without further delay, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman testified today.

“The District of Columbia is embroiled in accusations that business interests seeking lucrative government contracts from city government are footing the bill to elect those who have authority over awarding those contracts,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Pay-to-play abuses waste taxpayer dollars when contracts are awarded based on campaign donations rather than merit and undermine the public’s confidence in D.C. government.”

In the wake of the most recent allegations, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Attorney General Irvin Nathan have drafted the “Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2013.” The measure offers a number of much-needed campaign reforms but, most importantly, it contains sweeping pay-to-play restrictions that would squarely address the recent campaign finance scandals of government contractors attempting to influence District elections.

Holman testified before the Committee on Government Operations. Another committee hearing is scheduled next week; the committee could vote as soon as April. The measure would then go to the full Council.

If adopted, the mayor’s pay-to-play reforms would be among the strongest in the nation. Government contractors would be prohibited from making campaign contributions to, or expenditures on behalf of, any District candidate or official who is or could be involved in awarding the contract.

“Government contractor” is broadly defined in the legislation to include all senior executives of the company seeking a contract, aggregated together as a single entity. The spouses and dependent children of the executives would be limited to contributions of no more than $300 per election to covered officials and their committees.

Moreover, the mayor’s proposal offers strong enforcement actions against egregious violations, including civil and criminal penalties for violations by government officials and disqualification from receiving future government contracts for violations by contractors.

“By taking the simple step of divorcing campaign contributions from government contracts, this reform proposal will go a very long way toward cleaning up District politics and ensuring the integrity of the government contracting process,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Holman’s testimony is available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/holman-dc-pay-to-play-testimony-march-21-2013.pdf.

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