City Desk

Ethics Office Reviewing Local Dems’ Finances

The city's Office of Campaign Finance has launched a probe into the affairs of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, including allegations that a "secret account" existed under the DCDSC name.

OCF's general counsel and audit division are looking into charges made by committee members, according to agency spokesperson Wesley Williams. "It's not a full-blown investigation," he says. "It's a review of the matter to determine if it warrants a full investigation."

Generally speaking, the allegations are connected to the local Dems' trip to the Democratic National Convention last August in Denver. Corporate and individual donations are said to have paid for travel expenses for youths and certain DCDSC members, not to mention breakfasts and other events at the confab, but there has been no public disclosure of those donations to date.

The most serious questions surround a $12,000 check written on a DCDSC account in August to cover convention expenses. The check was paid to an entity called "Denver Convention 2008," but the endorsement stamp on the back of the check indicates the check was deposited into an Industrial Bank account in the name of "DC DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE."

Neither of the two official DCDSC accounts known to the general membership is located at Industrial Bank, and the group's treasurer, Dan Wedderburn, has no control of the account. The account was set up and controlled by DCDSC chair Anita Bonds and member Marilyn Tyler Brown.

Back in December, Deborah Royster, national Democratic committeewoman and chair of the Ward 4 Democrats, sent a letter to OCF asking for a full investigation of the convention finances. After receiving no response, Ward 8 member Philip Pannell followed up on Monday by delivering another letter to the agency asking them to investigate the check in particular.

In an e-mail sent yesterday to committee members, Pannell said questions need to be answered: "Was any money left? If so, what happened to it? A few members have asked [Bonds] about the national convention finances and the response has ranged from delay, dismissal, insults and threats....I strongly feel that it was highly inappropriate and unethical to set up an account for the the national convention that used the DCDSC's name...When contributions from individuals, organizations and corporations are solicited for the DC delegation's expenses at any Democratic National Convention, the members of the DCDSC have every right to expect total financial accountability and transparency."

Bonds says today that "there are no secret accounts." The purpose of the Denver Convention 2008 fund was to accept corporate and political action committee donations that the DCDSC itself was unable to accept. As for the mysterious endorsement, she says, "Apparently the bank created a stamp. They did that for informational purposes, which I guess is probably correct."

Bonds says she and Brown consulted with OCF before creating the account and has been cooperating with the office since questions have been raised.

Full disclosure, Bonds says, will come when the Denver Convention 2008 group files its federal tax form later this year. She promises to LL that a complete accounting of donations and expenditures will be provided.

"You can get a copy of that," she says.

OCF's Williams says he expects the initial probe to be completed by the end of the month.

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