Score One for the Big Guy
Corporations rule! The Board of Elections has ruled that the good-government types who want to ban corporate giving in D.C. elections did not submit enough signatures to put the issue to a vote in November's election.
LL's waiting on the BOE for the official numbers, but on Twitter, Bob Summersgill says the ballot initiative backers, who go by D.C. Public Trust, are short 1,726 valid signatures. To get on the ballot, about 23,200 signatures are needed, with five wards contributing at least 5 percent of the signatures each. The D.C. Public Trust submitted more than 30,000 signatures, but several thousand were ruled invalid for a variety of reasons, including some 3,100 signers whose addresses did not line up with what's on the rolls at the BOE.
In a statement, the group says it will be reviewing the rejected signatures during the ten days it has to appeal the board's decision. “We remain confident that we have the valid number of signatures, and if we feel we have legal grounds we will ask the D.C. Superior Court to review the board’s determination,” says Bryan Weaver, one of the petition drive's organizers, in a statement.
A longstanding practice in city fundraising is for donors to use multiple LLCs to circumvent the maximum giving limits. An example of how the system works: Jeanne Clarke Harris, who recently pleaded guilty to being part of a straw donor scheme that helped Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign, gave the Gray campaign a $2,000 personal check, them two $2,000 donations from two companies she controls. (Using her companies to make those donations wasn't illegal. Allegedly using city contractor Jeff Thompson's money to do it was.) D.C. Public Trust folks argued that those kind of loopholes gave deep-pocketed donors unfair advantages and create a culture of pay-to-play.
The effort got a chilly reception at the Wilson Building, where only Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells backed the idea. Still, the more than 20,000 valid signatures gathered by a volunteer force shows there's no small amount of support for the initiative.