Share

D.C.'s Tommy Wells to force campaign finance votes

|
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

District lawmakers will vote on a wide array of campaign finance reform measures Tuesday as part of a new effort by Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells to push the issue before legislators at their last session of the year.

Just weeks ago, it appeared unlikely that any campaign finance legislation would face a vote by the full council this year after Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser chose not to move any proposals out of the committee she chairs.

Bowser cited the complexity of the matter and said she didn't want to rush proposals through the legislative process.

Barry compares chairman
to Southern segregationists
In a last-ditch effort to win support for his proposal to grant new legal protections to ex-criminal offenders, Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry on Monday compared D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson with the Southern segregationists of the 1960s. "You sound like the white southerners who opposed the public accommodation bill and the Civil Rights Act," Barry wrote in a letter. "Mr. Chairman, you are a decent human being with a good heart ... How dare you vote against a bill which would give rights to returning citizens?" Mendelson was not immediately available for comment, but he and Barry have been sparring for weeks about the measure, which would ban employers from asking job applicants about their criminal histories before extending job offers.

But Wells told The Washington Examiner that not having a vote at all was unacceptable to him.

"I think we should put to a vote the issues that we held a hearing on," Wells said. "I don't believe that the city council is serious about campaign finance reform. I don't believe that they understand that there is a crisis of ethics in our city in our elected government."

The council is scheduled to consider emergency legislation Tuesday by Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh that would impose an immediate ban on money-order contributions greater than $25, and Wells said Monday that he would seek to amend Cheh's bill.

Wells' proposals are sweeping: They would all but eliminate campaign contributions from existing or prospective city contractors, ban donations from corporations and enhance disclosure requirements.

Wells' late push will mark the second consecutive year that he has used amendments to force campaign finance reform votes ahead of the holiday break.

Last year as the council considered broader ethics legislation, two Wells-sponsored amendments that would have toughened disclosure guidelines failed by 12-1 votes.

He could face similar challenges this time, and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson signaled Monday that he was wary of Cheh's less comprehensive proposal on money orders.

"I think the restriction on money orders to $25 is unreasonable," said Mendelson, who added that "something like $100 would be more reasonable."

Mendelson has said he wants lawmakers to consider a full campaign finance reform package in 2013, though Cheh says the council should implement new rules ahead of an April 23 special election.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment