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Campaign finance reform bills introduced at D.C. Council

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The D.C. Council took small steps Tuesday toward an overhaul of the city's troubled campaign finance system, just weeks after a series of proposals stalled in the legislative branch, with lawmakers pressing for new contribution limits and outright bans on donations from some companies.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, who presided over the committee last year where reform legislation fizzled when the clock ran out on the legislative session, crafted a bill that would cap money order donations at $25 and bar contributions from limited liability corporations.

"This form of organization has been able to evade our campaign finance limits," said Bowser, who added that a ban on LLC donations was "a starting point."

More cops ahead?
A majority of District lawmakers signed on to a plan Tuesday that would require the District to have more than 4,000 police officers on its payroll, even though the D.C. Council last month rejected a plan from Mayor Vincent Gray to hire new officers. "The city is growing," said Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who sponsored the proposal. "Our police force needs to grow accordingly." The Metropolitan Police Department currently has about 3,800 sworn officers. - Alan Blinder

Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, who chairs the panel that will steer debate on campaign finance legislation, also took aim at money order donations and announced a plan that would restrict these donations to no more than 5 percent of the maximum amount a person can give in a given race.

McDuffie's plan would limit money order donations to mayoral candidates to $100 and such contributions to council aspirants to $25.

And at-large Councilman Vincent Orange, who drew attention last year for accepting money order contributions that he acknowledged were "suspicious," also targeted the donations and sought a ceiling of $100.

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells chose not to include money order restrictions in his legislation, opting for a virtual carbon copy of the proposal he pushed last year that included a ban on contributions by existing or prospective city contractors.

And he went on the attack against other legislators for failing to act in 2012, a year in which campaign finance scandals roiled the District's political landscape.

"The council showed to the city that it wouldn't stomach tackling reforms and proved that it wouldn't rise above self-interest," Wells said. "But I'm not ready to give up."

Orange also pressed Tuesday for other reforms tied to ethics in government: term limits for the mayor and city lawmakers and a ban on using constituent service funds to purchase sports tickets.

"If this council is truly committed to ethics, then we should also examine the ethics of the council," Orange said.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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