Oct. 23, 2018

In Zeal to Protect Corporate Interests, Mayor Bowser Trips Over Contribution Limits

Get-Out-The-Vote Effort Should Motivate Voters, Not Influence Their Candidates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Public Citizen filed a complaint against Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for apparent violations of the contribution limits to At-Large Council candidates Dionne Reeder and Anita Bonds.

Bowser has spent an unknown but significant sum of her own surplus campaign funds to pay for shadow advertising and rental facilities for a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign weeks before the election. The GOTV campaign prominently features two At-Large Council candidates – Reeder and Bonds – neither of whom appear to have paid their campaign’s share of the expenses. Since the GOTV campaign seems to be a joint effort, the expenses would constitute in-kind contributions from Bowser to the candidates, which likely exceed the $1,000 contribution limit.

“Mayor Bowser is seeking to get around the contribution limits to her favored candidates by staging a campaign event as a GOTV drive,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “That doesn’t cut it. The candidates are materially involved in the event, so Bowser’s expenditures for advertising and the rally constitute an in-kind contribution to the candidates.”

Bowser has since promoted the candidacy of little-known challenger Reeder. Bowser has tapped into her extensive donor network of government contractors and businesses to help raise at least $100,000 for Reeder’s campaign.

“Bowser footed the bill for a large advertising campaign and GOTV rally that prominently featured Reeder,” said Aquene Fairchild, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “This was far more a campaign rally to promote Reeder than it was a GOTV rally.”

Bonds also appears to have also benefitted from Bowser’s largesse in the GOTV campaign.

Read Public Citizen’s request that the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance investigate whether the financing of Bowser’s GOTV campaign constitutes in-kind contributions to Reeder and Bonds in excess of the contribution limits.

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