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Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan Release Campaign Finance Reform Proposal

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan Release Campaign Finance Reform Proposal

Public Comment Sought before Submission to DC Council

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan today announced a set of proposed campaign finance reforms involving “pay-to-play” prohibitions, enhanced electronic disclosure requirements, and a ban on the bundling of contributions by lobbyists. After a public comment period that runs through September 17, 2012, the proposed legislation will be formally sent to the DC Council. The working draft of the proposed legislation can be seen on the Office of the Attorney General’s website at http://oag.dc.gov, and a copy is attached to this release.

“This legislation will bring accountability and transparency to our campaign-finance system, helping avoid even the appearance of corruption in the District’s political leadership,” Mayor Gray said. “The residents of the District of Columbia deserve to have confidence in their government, and this bill, if passed, will help safeguard the trust that our residents place in our leaders when they elect us.”

The proposed “pay-to-play” provisions of the legislation would bar those who have (or are seeking) contracts or grants with the District valued at $250,000 or higher from contributing to any elected public official or candidate who could be involved in the approval process for the contract or grant. They also would ban such individuals from contributing to any entity in which an official or candidate with oversight over the approval process has a significant financial interest.

The proposed bill’s disclosure rules would require organizations supporting or opposing any candidate, initiative, referendum or recall to identify the sources and amounts of any contributions they receive and any expenditures they make. Any contributions by a corporate entity would be attributed to the controlling shareholder and any affiliates of the entity so that maximum contribution limits cannot be evaded.

The bill would also require that disclosures of contributions and expenditures be filed and displayed on a website by the DC Office of Campaign Finance, and that all contributions and expenditures in the 30 days before an election must be disclosed to the Office of Campaign Finance within 24 hours and made viewable on the website soon thereafter.

Among other provisions in the proposed bill:

• Lobbyists would be prohibited from bundling contributions;
• Money orders would be subject to the same limitations as cash contributions;
• And candidates would be more accountable for what their political committees do.

Violators of the law could be subject to civil and criminal penalties. The maximum penalty in a criminal prosecution under the proposal would be five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The administration will seek additional funding for the Office of Campaign Finance to carry out its critical enforcement duties, called for by the bill, to promote the integrity of campaigns in the District.

Attorney General Nathan said that the proposal could “dramatically improve the District’s electoral system by increasing transparency and combating both actual and perceived corruption.” He added, “I encourage anyone interested in the integrity of the District’s election process to make their views known so that the Mayor and ultimately the Council can consider them and enact meaningful reform as soon as possible.”

Comments should be filed by the close of business Monday, Sept. 17, to Victor Bonett, OAG Legislative Affairs Officer, at victor.bonett@dc.gov or by mail to him at 441 4th Street NW, Suite 1180 N, Washington, DC 20001.