Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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City weighs ban on corporate gifts

Corporations will be banned from donating to city campaigns if voters this November give the nod to a proposed ballot initiative devised to wane businesses’ political influence, but Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans said he plans to vote against the measure.

The provision, proposed last week by the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust, would align the District with federal policies that outlaw businesses from funding elected officials and political candidates.

“While [city council members] have this interest of the city, they’re reaching out to the same people and asking them for cash donations for their political campaigns. And it seems to really murky the waters,” Bryan Weaver, a city activist and former D.C. Council candidate who filed the first steps of the proposal, said.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance allows businesses and corporations to contribute to political funds within the same donation limits as individuals, which vary based on the position but range from $25 to $2,000.

Evans, whose constituency covers GW, said he isn’t backing the ballot initiative and believes the current campaign contribution regulations serve the city well.

“I don’t think that removing corporate contributions…fixes any ethical issues the District is having,” Evans said. “When you do eliminate these contributions, the money does find its way back into the system.”

He said he fears that a ban on corporate contributions would trigger an onslaught of Super PACs like the ones that have cropped up on the federal level. Super PACs allow independent expenditure-only committees to raise unlimited sums of cash from corporations, unions and other groups and use funds to promote or criticize a candidate.

Evans has raised slightly more than $300,000 for his 2012 campaign war chest, according to fundraising data released last month. Nearly one-third of that money – about $112,000 – came from businesses and corporations. But he said the main issue at hand should be disclosure of campaign donors.

“We raise money from a lot of different sources and that’s one of the sources we raise money from, and it’s all disclosed,” Evans said. “As long as people are aware where you’re raising your money from, they can make the important choice of whether they want to vote for me or not.”

Weaver, who previously represented Adams Morgan on its Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the measure targets conflicts of interest – like in cases where contractors for the city end up funneling money into D.C. politicians’ campaign pools – and bundling – when individuals form multiple corporate entities with the same address to filter more donations to a candidate.

He added that corporate funding for incumbent campaigns makes it more difficult for challengers to stand a chance in a race.

“Although D.C. law has individual contribution limits, corporations can exceed these amounts by creating multiple entities that shield the individual owner,” the initiative’s summary reads.

The measure’s backers have 180 days to collect signatures from 5 percent of D.C. voters.

Charles Allen, chief of staff for Ward 6 D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, said the councilman has been working with Weaver and the committee and is a strong proponent of the initiative.

“I think the thought behind it is certainly that the corporate campaign dollars are vastly outweighing the individual’s contribution,” Allen said, adding that Wells has pledged to turn down corporate donations in the future.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will hold a hearing on the initiative Feb. 13.

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