Grassroots Effort Pushes Ban on Corporate Contributions to Local Pols -Ballot Initiative for November Election Sought
by Larry Janezich
DC Public Trust http://dcpublictrust.org/wordpress1/ is heading up a grass roots campaign to get corporate cash out of local elections. The effort, initiated by Former Ward 1 At-Large D.C. Council candidate Bryan Weaver and Ward 7 ANC Commissioner Sylvia Brown , will require over 22,000 signatures from registered voters across the city, 4,000 from Ward Six. Currently, District law allows corporate contributions up to $500 for ward races, $1,000 for at-large and $2,000 for mayor per year but corporations can exceed those limits by “bundling” contributions from individuals and subsidiary companies. The proposed initiative would ban corporations and other business entities from making direct contributions to politicians or their campaign, legal defense, and inaugural committees, or their constituent-service programs.
It is not clear that the initiative will completely fix what has been described as the “pay to play culture” characterizing the relationship between DC city government and the business community. Corporations have been resourceful in finding ways to help elect city officials in excess of the limit of law. An equally important area needing reform is transparency in campaign financing. Currently, considerable effort is required to search through the Office of Campaign Finance’s online records which go back to 2000.
ANC6B Commissioner Brian Pate is supporting the effort. He says “We’re looking for volunteers to gather signatures at various civic events, with a focus on the April 3rd primary election. People can contact co-Ward 6 coordinators Justin Unger (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Nathaneal Hill (email@example.com) to sign up for shifts on the April 3rd at polling places throughout the Ward, or to get involved at other times. We are, of course, also looking for signatures on the ballot petition.”
The language of the proposed initiative is as follows:
“The Prohibition on Corporate Campaign Contributions Initiative of 2012”
This initiative, if passed, would prohibit corporations and other business entities from making direct contributions to principal campaign committees, exploratory committees, legal defense committees organized in support of public officials, transition committees, inaugural committees, or constituent-service programs.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE ELECTORS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the “Prohibition on Corporate Campaign Contributions Initiative of 2012.”
Sec. 2 It shall be unlawful for a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership to make any contribution to a principal campaign committee, exploratory committee, legal defense committee, transition committee, inaugural committee, or constituent-service program
Sec. 3 To the extent that the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and Comprehensive Ethics Reform Amendment Act of 2011 (Enrolled version of Bill 19-511, passed by the District of Columbia Council on December 20, 2011) takes effect prior to the effective date of this Initiative, this Initiative shall be deemed and construed to repeal any provision of that Act that conflicts with this Initiative.
Sec. 4 Fiscal impact statement.
Sec. 5 Effective date. This act shall take effect after a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206 (c)(1)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register