Gray says he'll weigh campaign finance changes

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

One day after District residents voted for the first time since federal authorities opened probes into campaign finance practices in Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray said he's considering overhauling the rules that govern how political campaigns are paid for in D.C.

"In about five or six weeks, we will have our own overall, comprehensive view of campaign finance reform here in the city," Gray said Wednesday.

He declined to specify any changes he might seek.

Instead, Gray said, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan will conduct an audit of the city's campaign finance system.

Nathan's recommendations will form the backbone of the proposal Gray will unveil by May 15 -- the same day Ward 5 voters will elect a replacement for former D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., who resigned before pleading guilty to corruption charges.

But Thomas' resignation wasn't the end of the investigations of city leaders or their campaigns.

Gray's announcement came weeks after federal agents raided locations tied to Jeffrey Thompson, a prolific contributor to District campaigns. The searches were connected to an investigation into past financing of campaigns, and through the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from Thompson and a network of friends, family members and business entities have boosted campaigns in the District.

Part of Thompson's donation strategy -- known as "bundling" -- would be banned under Initiative 70, a D.C. ballot measure that would eliminate corporate contributions to campaigns.

Gray didn't issue a formal endorsement of the measure but indicated he was open to considering it.

"It's an issue that deserves a lot of discussion," Gray said. "It deserves consideration by the people."

On Tuesday, the measure's advocates labored to bring the proposal before D.C. residents on November's ballot by standing outside polling places in a bid to collect some of the approximately 23,000 signatures they need to obtain by July.

Bryan Weaver, who helped organize the push for the initiative, said volunteers collected more than 10,000 signatures.

He said he wants to see whether Gray's proposal includes a corporate donation ban.

"If they come through with something that is radically more open and transparent and really kills the bundling process, I could be very supportive of it," Weaver said. "But I'll believe it when I see it."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Alan Blinder

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