DC for Democracy is a leading unaligned progressive group of activists, community leaders and everyday voters in the District of Columbia working for positive change in our local & federal government and statehood for the residents of Washington, DC. We are the Democracy for America (DFA) affiliate in Washington, DC.

TO JOIN US, email us at dcfordemocracy@gmail.com.
To join us on Facebook, click here.

We generally meet on the second Wednesday of the month. Our next meetup is Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 7pm (location TBD).

DC for Democracy’s special election questionnaire for the Ward 4 Special Election asked the following questions about public financing, campaign finance reform and the influence of monied interests in DC politics:

1a) A number of jurisdictions provide public financing to political campaigns who meet certain requirements. The campaign must receive small donations (as low as $5 per person) from a specified minimum number of individuals. In addition, candidates must agree to certain conditions (for example, limits on how much their campaign may spend, limits on how much any individual may donate, and a ban on contributions from corporations and political action committees).
As a Councilmember would you vote to establish such a system in DC? Why or why not?

In the current Council period, Chairman Mendelson has introduced the Contractor Pay-to-Play Elimination Amendment Act of 2015. Instead of using the conventional approach of banning contractors from donating to campaigns, the bill would ban donors from receiving government contracts.
2a) As a Councilmember, will you vote in favor of this legislation?
2b) What have you done in the past to limit the influence of monied interests in DC government?

Ward 4 special election candidates
Note: candidates who are not listed did not respond to our questionnaire.

Leon Andrews:
1a, 2a, 2b) Yes, we want to continue to have open and fair election process to allow everyone to have a chance to participate.

Renee Bowser:
1a) I agree with and would vote to establish a system of public financing because public financing places all candidates on an equal playing field as regards funding of their campaigns. A system of public financing lets voters know that even though they may not have big dollar amounts to give their contributions will make a difference, and may encourage greater participation because voters will believe their input can make a real difference. Public financing allows the candidates’ records and ideas to take the lead.
2a) I will vote in favor of banning donors from receiving government contracts.
2b) I have maintained a policy of not taking corporate and developer contributions in the elections in which I’ve participated because I do not believe they should continue to yield outsized influence. In past elections, I consistently spoke out against exploiting of the loophole in DC law which allowed shell limited liability corporations to exceed the campaign contribution limits in DC campaigns.

Gwenellen Corley:
1a) Of course I would vote for any campaign to receive small donations. As a native Washingtonian I have found that there has always been a community spirit for democracy and equity in an election. In 1971 when late Council Member Marion Barry visited McKinley Technical High School and spoke to a student body of 1000 students enrolled at that time to vote there was
hope. I have never missed voting since that time. Residents of the District of Columbia must have voice in any election. Voters should not have limited choices when they are faced with any election. Contributions from corporations and some political action groups should be monitored.
2a) Yes, this would eliminate the corruption in many of the contracts that have flourished in DC government.
2b) I am a retired District of Columbia educator that fought for equity in school funds that were designated to go to students. Many of the contracts for community service that have been designed to serve students in schools were never used for this purpose. In many cases I have fought with parents on the LSRT to question many of these funds.

Judi Jones:
1a) I like the idea of public financing to political campaigns and would be open to establishing a system in WDC.
2a) I am open to discussing campaign donations from WDC contractors
2b) As an ANC/resident, I have voted for those candidates that agree with my position on campaign donations.

Edwin Powell:
1a) Based on recent court decisions, I do not believe that it would constitutional to ban campaign contributions from corporations or labor organizations. I think that it is incumbent upon the candidate or elected official to govern themselves accordingly as it relates to contributions and the potential for political ‘kick-backs’. The courts have settled the issue regarding campaign finance laws and the guidelines for accepting contributions should be at the discretion of the candidate or elected official.
2a) Yes
2b) While I support limiting how money influences the interests in DC government, I have not been directly involved in any activities opposing this practice.

Doug Sloan:
1a) Yes. Given the massive influx of developer and special interest money into the Ward 4 campaign I would support public financing in DC.
2a) I would not support this legislation. I believe it is incumbent for City Councilmembers to act in a principled manner that is fitting of the public office in which they serve. All money is not good money. As a public official you have to be honest with your donors and supporters so that you will not be beholden to people who do not share your value system or beliefs or to those who do not have the city’s best interests at heart.
2b) no response

Bobvala Tengen:
1a) I would support public financing for candidates in a Rank Choice Voting system where candidates who are ranked become eligible to receive public financing. This ideal system would be best executed during primary and general elections.
2a) I would vote in favor of this legislation because donating to campaigns while also wanting to pursue government contracts can create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
2b) I have not directly influenced monied interests in DC government, but I will take proactive steps to advance legislation to ensure that we have strong contracting and procurement process that is equitable and unbiased.

At our meetup on November 12, 2014 DC for Democracy members unanimously approved the following resolution:

The Mayor’s Proposal and the Consultants’ Review are weighted heavily to the advantage of the Developer and Soccer Team Owner, to the disadvantage of District residents. DC For Democracy therefore opposes not only the current Proposal but also the Proposal if revised to reflect the CR findings because they would continue to fall far short of the interest of the public. The Council should consider the soccer stadium along with the fiscal year 2016 Budget.

On November 13, 2014, Dan Wedderburn, DC for Democracy’s Chair of the Government Reform Committee testified before the DC Council Committee of the Whole regarding the DC Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014 (Bill 20-0805).

Mr. Chairman, members, I am Dan Wedderburn, Chair of DC For Democracy’s Government Reform Committee. DC For Democracy (DC4D) is a leading non-aligned progressive group in the District with hundreds of members.

The results of the Council Consultants’ Report on the pros and cons of the Mayor/John Akridge Agreement are weighted heavily to the advantage of the Developer, to the disadvantage of the District.

The consultants accepted and did not challenge key components of the Agreement: that DC pay up to half the total costs, or $150 million; DC sell the Reeves Center to Akridge well below its fair market value and prohibits DC putting it out for bid; DC must buy 5 parcels at Buzzard Point AND lease the soccer site to DC United; DC ten must pay environmental cleanup of an industrial site that could cost untold millions.

Also the consultants did not consider any alternatives to the Agreement, such as putting Reeves up for bid or having the developer lease the soccer site.

DC Fiscal Policy Institute estimates the city will pay 63% of the total costs including tax abatements of $50 million.

CFO’s John Ross testified that the proposed tax abatements up to 10 years “…are not necessary for the Team.”

Consultants appraised Reeves at $66.8. The CFO officially appraised it at $128.6 million for 2014. Then when the Mayor and Akridge were negotiating their Agreement, OCFO reduced it to $73 million. Why?

Consultants estimate it will cost $84 million to construct a new Municipal Center in Ward 8. A competitive sale of Reeves could easily pay this. The Proposal and Consultants nowhere discuss how to fund this.

The Mayor-elect on Nov. 7 said she did not see the necessity to sell Reeves Center.

There is no need to rush to judgment on the Soccer Stadium. An Agreement would have significant impacts on next year’s Fiscal Budget and Hearings that need to be dealt with first. This is DC4D’s Recommendation.

DC for Democracy endorsed Elissa Silverman for election at its September meeting for her track record as a bold progressive voice for progressive budget and tax policies, as well as her significant contributions to ethics reform and campaign finance reform in the city. We applaud her for playing a leading role in the minimum wage and paid sick days campaigns last year and believe Elissa’s years of service both in local journalism and rigorous policy analysis have prepared her to be a uniquely well-rounded council member.

In a crowded field of fifteen eligible candidates for two at-large council seats, Elissa Silverman won endorsement with 71% of the vote Wednesday night. With two-thirds of the vote required for endorsement, no other candidates came close. Eugene Puryear led the rest of the candidates with 46%, while others trailed far behind.

For more information:
www.dcfordemocracy.org
Twitter: @dc4d

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