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D.C. Council Digs In On Corporate Contributions

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Members of the D.C. Council recieve nearly as many campaign contributions from corporations as individuals -- which likely explains their resistance to limiting corporate donations.
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Members of the D.C. Council recieve nearly as many campaign contributions from corporations as individuals -- which likely explains their resistance to limiting corporate donations.

As the D.C. Council works to overhaul the city’s ethics and campaign finance rules, members are digging in their heels over attempts to limit campaign donations from corporations. The latest campaign filings show council members are relying on corporate contributions now more than ever, nearly outpacing the money raised from individual contributions.

For five council members up for re-election this year -- Vincent Orange, Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, Yvetter Alexander and Michael Brown -- the latest campaign finance records show individual contributions totaling $430,000, while money from corporations not far behind at $360,000.

When the same line-up ran in 2008, minus Orange, the amount raised from individual contributors was nearly twice as much as the amount from corporations.

And as council members rely increasingly on corporate cash, they have quashed efforts to rein in these contributions. During the ethics legislation vote last week, council members crushed a proposal to ban the so-called LLC loophole, which allows business owners and developers to route campaign contributions through multiple companies and, in essence, skirt contribution limits.

Bryan Weaver, a local activist who has twice run for D.C. council and lost, has been lobbying members to close the loophole and improve campaign finance rules.

“It’s just a broken system and at some point it just tilts the scale for incumbents and people who have power," says Weaver. "That’s actually what the many people think the definition of pay to play is and Im not sure why this council doesn’t seem to see it that clearly."

Weaver notes that in practically every other jurisdiction where Democrats dominate, the party usually tries to limit the influence of corporate money. The District, he says, appears to be going in the opposite direction.

Cycle Corporate* Individual % Corporate
2011-Present $358,470 $430,881 45%
2007-2008** $641,281 $1,093,520 37%
(Source: D.C. Office of Camaign Finance)
*Includes Corporate, Business, Partnerships, Labor, other
**2007-2008 does not include Vincent Orange, who did not run for council in 2007, or Marion Barry, who did run but filed his OCF report late
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