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D.C. Council Needs to Address Corruption by Adopting Public Financing of Campaigns and Ethics Package

July 11, 2013

D.C. Council Needs to Address Corruption by Adopting Public Financing of Campaigns and Ethics Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Without further delay, the District of Columbia should adopt public financing of campaigns and restrict campaign contributions and expenditures by government contractors in D.C. elections, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman testified today.

“Elected officials in the District of Columbia have been besieged by one campaign finance scandal after another, with special interests seeking favors and government contracts by laundering large campaign contributions and often concealing the true sources of the money from the public,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, at a public forum. “Some officials have already been convicted; others are under ongoing investigation. The mayor and Council must end this corruption by removing corporate money from elections altogether.”

In the wake of corruption scandals, Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) introduced the “Public Financing of Political Campaigns Amendment Act.” The measure would provide participating candidates who agree to accept only small private contributions of $100 or less with a 4-to-1 match of public funds. A $100 contribution from an individual, with matching funds, would amount to a $500 contribution, offering participating candidates enough money to wage an effective campaign. It also means an end to potentially corrupting large contributions from the wealthy.

At the same time, Mayor Vincent Gray and Attorney General Irvin Nathan have proposed a sweeping ethics proposal, the “Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act,” which would prohibit campaign contributions from business interests seeking government contracts. This ban on contributions and expenditures by government contractors would be among the strongest in the nation. Right now, D.C. is lagging behind; the federal government and many states prohibit corporations from contributing directly to candidates because of the potential for corruption. D.C. allows direct corporate contributions to candidates.

“Combined, the public financing proposal and the ban on contributions from government contractors would constitute an ideal reform package, enhancing the value of small donors and eliminating the ability of Big Business to buy government contracts,” said Holman. “This reform package would finally rein in the pay-to-play corruption so pervasive in D.C. elections.”

Public Citizen urges the D.C. mayor and Council to take these reform proposals as seriously as the corruption scandals that make the reforms necessary.