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D.C. Council Advances Sweeping ‘Pay-to-Play’ Reform

Nov. 20, 2018

D.C. Council Advances Sweeping ‘Pay-to-Play’ Reform

City Set to Ban Campaign Contributions From Government Contractors in Move Toward Clean and Fair Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Good government groups applaud the D.C. Council’s vote today to advance critical pay-to-play legislation that limits political contributions from District contractors to elected officials with sway over the contracting process.

“The Council has answered a longstanding cry for many years to make pay-to-play politics illegal,” said Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. “While no law can totally solve this problem, District residents have long wanted a more equitable system for running our government. Today’s vote is one giant step closer to D.C. politics that is less driven by money and more focused on everyday District residents.”

Eleven D.C. Council members voted to advance the legislation to a final vote and two voted “present.” The final vote on the legislation is set for Dec. 4.

Provisions of the “Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018” (B22-0107) include:

  • Restricting major government contractors from making campaign contributions to those responsible for issuing the contracts, thereby addressing ongoing concerns about “pay-to-play” politics;
  • Ensuring the independence from political interference of the campaign finance enforcement agency;
  • Enhancing the disclosure requirements for money in District elections and requiring that “independent” expenditures be truly independent of candidates; and
  • Mandating training of all candidates and campaign treasurers of the campaign finance and ethics laws.

The bill, championed by Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) incorporates legislative proposals from Councilmembers Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), David Grosso (I-At-Large), Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), Attorney General Karl Racine (D) and six other Councilmembers.

As part of a coalition, Public Citizen, DC for Democracy, Empower DC, Jews United For Justice, DC for Reasonable Development, Ward 3 Democrats, the D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women, Campaign Legal Center, ONE DC and the Brennan Center for Justice support the legislation.

“DC4D members will celebrate 2018 as a turning point in our democracy,” said Kesh Ladduwahetty, chair for DC for Democracy.” With the funding of D.C. fair elections and today’s passage of pay-to-play reform, we look forward to a political culture that is more fair, democratic and accountable to the public.”

“Jews United for Justice applauds the Councilmembers who voted in support of the sweeping pay-to-play and ethics reform today. We look forward to the final vote and we hope for equally robust support on Dec. 4,” said Joanna Blotner, and organizer at Jews United For Justice. “Everyday District resident calls for reform and people-powered democracy are finally being heard.”