The D.C. Council recently passed ethics legislation, but it doesn't crack down on entities that skirt campaign finance contribution limits by using multiple corporations.
The D.C. Council has passed its ethics overhaul, but some say the legislation doesn't go far enough in reigning in the practice of "bundling." That's when a business owner is able to makes multiple campaign contributions using subsidiary or affiliated companies. Critics say the practice lets people skirt contribution limits and gives business owners an outsize influence over local leaders.
As WAMU reported last month, the latest campaign finance reports for the five D.C. Council members up for reelection this year show 75 examples of contributions from different companies that list the same headquarters address as at least one other firm -- the telltale sign of bundling.
Dollar for dollar, no one relied on bundled contributions more in the most recent filing cycle than at-large Council member Vincent Orange.
More than one-third of the nearly $110,000 raised by Orange this past reporting period came from bundled contributions. A close look at the two biggest "bundlers" -- one, a D.C. taxicab magnate; the other, a powerful gas station mogul -- reveal what appears to be a close connection.
According to the campaign finance filings, Orange received 5 checks Dec. 8, 2011 from separate companies, totaling $4,500. The companies list the same address on Benning Road in Northeast D.C., and city records show they're connected to Jerry Schaeffer, owner of more than a dozen taxicab companies in D.C.
That same week, Orange received 9 checks totaling $9,000 from multiple companies listing a single address in Springfield, Va.
Virginia incorporation records show these companies are all connected to the Capitol Petroleum Group and it's head, Joe Mamo, the powerful gas station mogul who owns nearly half of D.C.'s gas stations.
But those records also show a connection between Schaeffer and Mamo's companies. For seven out of the nine Virginia companies at the Springfield address that contributed to Vincent Orange's campaign late last year, Mamo is listed as the president and Schaeffer is listed as either director or secretary -- under his full name, Gerald Schaeffer.
In response to the WAMU story last month about the examples of bundling that appeared on all the council members' filings, a spokesperson for the Office of Campaign Finance said any time there are multiple contributions from the same address, it would "definitely raise a red flag." He added that an auditor would be tasked with following up and making sure someone wasn't using the companies to exceed individual contribution limits.
But he also said that OCF has never levied a fine for exceeding limits as a result of investigating one of these cases.
Mamo, Schaeffer and Council member Orange couldn't be reached Monday for comment.Two contribution 'bundles to D.C. Council Member Vincent Orange
Corporate Officers Of Six Companies That Contributed To Council Member's Campaign