Photo by afagen on Flickr.
DC residents can continue to shake our heads in embarrassment and wait for the US Attorney to expose the corrosive influence of money in local DC politics, reinforcing the image of a federal territory unable to govern itself. Or, we can send a message to DC leaders that if they are not willing to lead on these important matters of ethics and integrity, the people will.
Join me and other many other DC residents by helping to put Initiative 70 on the ballot this November. We are collecting signatures at the Petworth and Dupont farmers’ markets and Glover Park Day this weekend, and are looking for folks during Capital Pride next weekend. Please sign up to help at one of these or find out about other times and locations near you.
Initiative 70 bans corporate cash from local campaigns, as well as other ways to buy influence and access such as inaugural committees, constituent service funds and legal defense funds. It would become law if District voters approve it in November.
But it can’t make the ballot simply because seems like a good thing to do. We need the valid signatures and addresses of 5% of DC registered voters on petition sheets we give to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics by early July, including 5% percent of the voters in 5 of the 8 wards.
And we can’t just put some on-line petition on Facebook or Twitter to do it. We need to do it the old-fashioned way by collecting signatures in person, with the circulator of the petition witnessing the signature of each voter that signs our sheets.
We need Initiative 70 for the good of our city, but Initiative 70 also needs you. We need DC residents who believe in fairness and an ethical government to commit a little time to helping us gather the necessary signatures. In every ward, DC Public Trust, the organization we formed to pass Initiative 70, has weekly events at supermarkets and farmers’ markets.
This weekend, for example, we’ll be at the Petworth farmers’ market in Ward 4 tomorrow, Glover Park Day in Ward 3 on Saturday, and the Dupont farmers’ Market in Ward 2 on Sunday. Just 70 minutes of your week for Initiative 70 will help us collect the signatures we need to make the ballot.
Please sign up to volunteer online. Want to do something in your neighborhood? I will put you in touch with your ward coordinator.
Will Initiative 70 clean up DC politics entirely? Sadly, it won’t. But as a longtime observer of local politics, I believe it is important to put into law because it addresses two glaring problems: a lack of transparency in who’s giving and the overt evasion of our individual contribution limits.
LLCs, limited liability companies that fill our city’s campaign coffers, play a game of peek-a-boo with our campaign finance laws. They are able to hide behind legal paperwork so we can’t see the money flowing from one parent donor, but when the checks are handed over at a fundraiser it’s pretty clear who is giving.
This has become an easy way to evade our individual contribution limits, which means that District contractor Jeffrey Thompson— whose companies profit from tens of millions in District contracts— can return the favor during campaign season.
About a month ago, I was collecting signatures at an event attended by Mayor Gray. I asked the Mayor to add his name to the thousands of DC residents who wanted a fairer local campaign finance system. He did not, explaining he had his own legislation he was going to put forward May 15. That day has come and gone without any proposal.
But as I told the Mayor, I don’t think his efforts and ours are mutually exclusive. They are complimentary. Let’s put Initiative 70 on the ballot, let’s debate Mayor Gray’s proposal— but let’s do something to address what is a clear problem.
If we don’t take action, we’ll just keep the US Attorney busy. And that’s not good for DC.
Please sign up now to help DC Public Trust and clean up DC politics. And Mayor Gray, I’m happy to meet you anytime to collect your signature.