Days after federal agents raided the home and office of a District contractor who is also a prolific political donor, two lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a sweeping overhaul of the city's campaign finance laws, including a ban on contributions from corporations and contractors.
"The council needs to address the District's many campaign finance issues in a serious way," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, the measure's author. "In light of recent events, the time to do that is now."SClBOnly one other council member, Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, immediately backed Cheh's proposal.
In the past year, the Wilson Building has been repeatedly rocked by acknowledgments of corruption and continuing federal probes into other allegations of wrongdoing.
One of those investigations triggered searches at locations with ties to Jeffrey Thompson, the owner of Chartered Health Plan, paid as much as $322 million annually by the city for help managing its Medicaid services. Thompson has been a key financier of campaigns in the District, using his personal wealth and a network of associates and business entities to pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city's political scene.
Much of Thompson's giving came from Chartered, his accounting firm or other corporations he created. Under Cheh's measure, though, such giving would be banned, along with donations from all other corporate entities -- including nonprofit organizations.
Since January, a band of activists has been trying to secure a citywide vote on a similar prohibition.
"[Cheh's bill] probably gives it more momentum," Bryan Weaver said. "I'm hopeful that maybe the council has seen the sentiment in the city."
Cheh's proposal would also eliminate donations from city contractors and individuals seeking to do business with the District.
But one councilman said the legislation doesn't go far enough because it wouldn't end the practice of council members having other jobs.
"You're banning corporate contributions, but those same corporations can hire separately. It doesn't add up," At-Large Councilman Vincent Orange told The Washington Examiner. "If they want to ban outside employment along with corporate contributions, then I'll vote for it. "
Orange received more money from Thompson and his connections than any other legislator.
Staff Writer Liz Farmer contributed to this report.