Councilwoman backs off D.C. campaign finance bill

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A D.C. councilwoman abruptly withdrew her effort to place new limits on money-order contributions to political campaigns on Tuesday after another lawmaker said he would seek to toughen her measure through a series of amendments.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh announced last week that she wanted to institute a $25 limit on money-order donations after such contributions became a focal point of a federal corruption probe.

But Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells told The Washington Examiner on Monday that he would try to amend Cheh's proposal to include a ban on contributions by corporations and prospective and existing city contractors. Wells also wanted to enhance disclosure requirements.

"We know that we have problems," Wells told reporters ahead of Cheh's announcement. "The council needs to step up and not turn away from this... Don't let the council hide.

Cheh said, however, that she thought Wells' amendments would harm her efforts and yanked her proposal from the agenda late Tuesday.

"I believed we could take one piece of what we had in front of us," said Cheh, who added that Wells' amendments would "sort of operate as a poison pill and raise contentious issues."

Earlier in the day, other lawmakers had indicated they would kill Wells' measures if Cheh moved ahead and the council staged a vote.

"This doesn't address anything," Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans said. "It's just bills that address campaign finance."

Evans also accused Wells of wasting the council's time.

"You keep wanting to do more and more to address problems that aren't problems," Evans said.

Cheh's measure marked the final opportunity for lawmakers to vote on a significant campaign finance reform proposal this year. Several proposals were pending before the council, but Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser did not move any of them out of the committee she chairs.

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

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has said repeatedly he wants lawmakers to consider a package of reforms in 2013.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner