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D.C. Office of Campaign Finance Finds Merit in Public Citizen’s Complaint, Fines Bowser Campaign $13,000

June 6, 2017

D.C. Office of Campaign Finance Finds Merit in Public Citizen’s Complaint, Fines Bowser Campaign $13,000

Statements of Public Citizen Experts

Note: Today, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance fined Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaign committee $13,000 for taking excessive contributions. The finding came in response to a complaint filed by Public Citizen.

“We need to reform campaign finance law in the District so that candidates follow the laws on the books and enforcement actions are an adequate deterrent to repeat offenses. The mayor has yet to apologize to the public for taking illegal money – that’s the minimum we should expect. Our elected officials should be the first to obey the laws they enact and sign, the mayor as well as the Brandon Todd campaign to the best of my knowledge refuse to admit wrongdoing and apologize in the face of incontrovertible evidence, and it’s unacceptable.

In an interview with Fox 5, the mayor herself implied that she didn’t think $30,000 was that much money given that she had raised $3 million for her campaign. If $30,000 is not a lot of money to the mayor, then certainly a $13,000 fine isn’t either.
We are pleased that the Office of Campaign Finance responded quickly to our complaint. However the fine is not adequate to prevent future infractions. We identified the illegal contributions with a simple sort by address and name of donor. It would have been better if the agency had identified these infractions itself. We certainly would like to see it demonstrate its commitment to enforcement by acting independently on similar concerns raised in the media about the Todd campaign accepting illegal contributions. Finally, while the Office of Campaign Finance is investing in software to better detect these kinds of errors, we do expect a watchdog agency to look proactively for infractions.

The Council should take action to make sure the laws on the books are an adequate deterrent and that the enforcement agency has adequate enforcement power and independence.”
Aquene Freechild, co-director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

“We’re glad to see that the Office of Campaign Finance is finally starting to take a look at potential violations. It’s a positive step forward that the office is addressing the problems that have prevented it from effectively monitoring violations in the past, including an aversion to reviewing campaign finance reports for violations and relying on antiquated monitoring software.”
Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist, Public Citizen