WAMU 88.5 : News

D.C. Legislators Running For Mayor Exploit Loophole They Voted To Close

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Campaign contribution bundling will soon be illegal, but that's not stopping D.C. mayoral candidates from taking advantage of it now.
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Campaign contribution bundling will soon be illegal, but that's not stopping D.C. mayoral candidates from taking advantage of it now.

This month, the D.C. Council unanimously approved campaign finance reform legislation to crack down on business owners who are able to evade contribution limits by using multiple companies to give donations. But some of the very Council members who voted for the law may not be following it as they run for mayor.

As WAMU 88.5's “Deals For Developers” investigation uncovered, a loophole in D.C. law allows business owners to use companies under their control to make multiple donations to a single candidate. 

In other words, while an individual could give a maximum of $2,000 to a mayoral candidate, a business owner could donate 10 times that by using affiliated companies and LLCs — many of the donations coming on exactly the same day and from exactly the same address.

This month, in a 13-0 vote, the D.C. Council voted to close the loophole and end the practice.

But the law doesn’t go into effect until 2015, and as the most recent campaign filings show, it appears most of the Council members running for mayor have no intention of following it until then.

This type of “bundling” can add up. For instance, In Jack Evans’ campaign filings, WAMU 88.5 identified 11 examples of donations from multiple corporate entities that share the same address. Nearly each time the companies, 14 from one location alone, gave the maximum amount — $2,000 — and donated on the same day.

These donations for Evans total over $100,000 of the $1 million he's raised — and that’s not even including any of the contributions from the owners of these businesses or their family members and employees.

There were five examples in Muriel Bowser’s campaign finance records for a total of $20,000, and three examples for $30,000 for Vincent Orange. In one case, eight entities registered at the same Rockville address gave bundled contributions to all the candidates — $3,000 to Bowser, $14,000 to Evans and $16,000 to Orange.

"When the proposed new law is enacted then all campaigns will act accordingly," said Orange in response to an inquiry by WAMU 88.5. "Right now, the rules of engagement have been established and the competition is ahead in fundraising pursuant to current law."

The other Council member running for mayor, Tommy Wells, has decided not to accept corporate donations — in part because of the abuse of this loophole.

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