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D.C. Campaign Finance Reform Could Ban City Contractor Donations

Attorney General would also ban money order donations over $25

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The D.C. Council will take up campaign finance reform in the coming months at the request of the Mayor. They got an early look at D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan's proposed reforms during a committee hearing June 25.
Mallory Noe-Payne
The D.C. Council will take up campaign finance reform in the coming months at the request of the Mayor. They got an early look at D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan's proposed reforms during a committee hearing June 25.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing sweeping changes to how campaigns are funded and D.C.'s attorney general put forth some suggestion for reforms Monday. The move comes as federal investigators continue their probe into contracting and campaign finance practices in D.C., including the Mayor's own 2010 campaign. 

It's time to end the perception of a "pay-to-play" culture in District government, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said during a D.C. Council committee hearing Monday. 

"For citizens to have faith in their government, they must be able to trust that when the government awards contracts or grants, it does so on the basis of merit, uninfluenced by politics or campaign contributions," Nathan said. 

Nathan, who is still drafting the legislation, introduced several proposals at Monday's hearing on campaign finance. Nathan wants a ban on contributions from government contractors or those seeking large contracts from the city. 

He also wants a ban on money orders greater than $25 dollars. And he wants to tighten disclosure requirements in order to end "bundling" — referring to the wide-spread practice of businesses using subsidiary companies to make multiple donations to a politician and in essence skirt contribution caps.

"These disclosure requirements will allow the government as well as the public who have until now concealed their identities behind a corporate veil and will allow the Office of Campaign Finance to enforce respectively campaign contribution limits," Nathan said. 

Nathan's proposals largely mirror earlier legislation proposed by Council member Tommy Wells that was rejected by his colleagues earlier in the year. Wells commended Nathan during the meeting, but offered a warning.

"I would be stunned if the city council passed what you proposed," Wells said. "And at a minimum — at best — if anything like this passed the city council, it would be gutted first."

Wells has also been a strong proponent of a ballot initiative to ban corporate contributions to local candidates. But at yesterday's hearing Nathan came out against the campaign, calling it a "meat ax" approach to reforming the city's campaign finance laws.

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