June 7, 2013

Latest Pay-to-Play Scandal in D.C. Highlights the Urgent Need to Ban Campaign Money From Government Contractors

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

 Today’s news that former Councilmember Michael Brown plans to plead guilty to corruption charges highlights the urgency for the Council to pass pay-to-play legislation before the next city elections. Brown reportedly plans to plead guilty to federal charges of accepting payments for favors from undercover agents posing as government contractors.

Pay-to-play scandals involving D.C. officials are so pervasive that perhaps the biggest news here is that it is news at all. The District of Columbia, like several jurisdictions around the nation, is embroiled in a series of “campaign-contributions-for-government-contracts” scandals that have caused immense harm to the image and credibility of the D.C. government.

These scandals do not just damage the public’s confidence in government. They often waste taxpayer dollars, cause the business community to think twice about engaging in government services and endanger otherwise promising careers of public officials.

 In the wake of this wave of pay-to-play allegations, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Attorney General Irvin Nathan have drafted the “Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2013” (B20-0003). The measure offers a number of desperately needed campaign reforms but, most important, it contains sweeping pay-to-play restrictions that would squarely address the recent campaign finance scandals of government contractors attempting to influence District elections.

 It is long past time for the District to move forward on this legislation and get it in place in time for the next election – before contractors try to buy more favors, before citizens and businesses alike lose more confidence in their government, and before other public officials are tempted to cross the line into scandal.

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