The D.C. Council took the first step Tuesday toward sharply limiting money order contributions to District political campaigns as city leaders grapple with the fallout of a investigation into campaign finance practices.
Under the measure Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh introduced, the city would impose a $25 limit on money order donations -- matching the restrictions already in place for cash contributions. D.C. law currently allows money order donations up to the maximum contribution limit for donations made by check or credit card. Depending on the office being contested, that figure could be up to $2,000 per person or company.
"It is time that we address a myriad of campaign finance issues in the District," Cheh said. "One of these issues is the opportunity for abuse of money order donations. We... do not want to invite mischief."
|Among other D.C. Council actions Tuesday:|
|Medical marijuana: Legislators voted to bar medical marijuana cultivation centers from areas designated as "retail priority areas," which includes parts of Shaw, Petworth and H Street. Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander said the restrictions would help promote economic development.|
|Helping youth: Nearly two years after a shooting on South Capitol Street left four teenagers dead, the council approved a bill that will crack down on truancy and expand mental health services for youth.|
Cheh's proposal attracted the support of six other legislators, giving it enough support to all but guarantee ultimate passage.
Money orders have been in the spotlight recently after federal agents raided the D.C. home and offices of local businessman Jeffrey Thompson in connection with an investigation into campaign finances in the District.
Thompson and a network of family members, friends and business entities have been prolific contributors to campaigns in the city, and in many cases, Thompson and his allies made their contributions using money orders.
Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans said he supported Cheh's bill but wants to see more changes to the city's campaign finance structure.
"We have a bigger problem here, and it really does go to the resources of the Office of Campaign Finance," Evans said of the agency that enforces campaign finance regulations. "This will be a start."
A spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, who also received significant contributions from the Thompson network, said the mayor backed Cheh's measure.
"The mayor absolutely supports Council member Cheh's proposal," Pedro Ribeiro said.