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D.C. Council Implored To Tackle Campaign Finance Reform

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A series of scandals out of the D.C. Council has so far done little to change the laws governing campaigns.
Adam Fagen (http://www.flickr.com/photos/afagen/5095526890/)
A series of scandals out of the D.C. Council has so far done little to change the laws governing campaigns.

Campaign finance reform is on the agenda in D.C. again, after years of scandals have shaken city hall.

From money order straw donations to a "shadow campaign", the District government has faced one campaign finance scandal after another. Addressing these issues hasn t been easy for local lawmakers, who are now once again taking up campaign finance reform after deciding to pass on any action last year

D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, who has crafted a proposal to overhaul the city's laws, implored the council to take action during his testimony last Friday.

"It's important for the council to stand up and say: 'These have been problems, we need to try and correct the problems, we are making good faith efforts,'" said Nathan. "And to send a message to the public, the candidates, and the office of campaign finance, that we really want these laws enforced, and we want you to do your best to do it, recognizing there is no panacea, every violation is not going to be found, every violation is not going to have the same consequence, but it's serious to us."

Nathan says he wants to improve the system, and urged lawmakers not to kick the can down the road.

William Sanford, an attorney for the Office of Campaign Finance, defended the department, which has been criticized for lax oversight of the laws on the books.

"We have not had the resources to be every place at the same time and to uncover every possible impropriety regarding campaign finance and that will never exist," Sanford says.

Nathan responded, saying that the OCF doesn't need to catch everyone.

"When we pass laws dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, it's not anticipated that every violation of the tax laws will be prosecuted and found, but we give the tools both by resources and by legislation to say we want these things enforced and we are serious about them," Nathan says.

Council member Kenyon McDuffie, who now has oversight of campaign finance reform, says there will be another hearing on the issue later this month.

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