The D.C. Council has given a preliminary approval to a sweeping campaign finance reform bill by voting in favour of the legislation on Tuesday.
Called “Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2017”, the bill
would prohibit D.C. businesses from financing to city campaigns if the combined
contracts they hold with the D.C. government totals $250,000 or more.
In the new legislation, the contractors would also
be prevented from contributing to any campaigns run by D.C. council members.
Ward 6 Democrat and Council member Charles Allen, who’s the sponsor of the bill, said that restricting campaign contributions is meant to control corruptible influences in the government.
The bill was passed by the council on a 11-0 first
vote. Democratic member from Ward 4, Brandon Todd, and Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5) stayed away from Tuesday’s vote to mark
their opposition to the bill.
that we’re embarking on a policy that will selectively disenfranchise some D.C.
residents in order to fight a feeling of impropriety, not a reality,” said
The fact that some lawmakers won their elections “despite
being out-raised by incumbents proves that voters can see through the
pay-to-play culture,” said McDuffie.
The bill builds on the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which was
introduced and passed by the council in
“Taken together, these laws would be a significant overhaul of
how candidates run for office and give District residents a far more powerful
voice in selecting their leaders and holding them accountable,” Allen said in a
Ward 8 Democrat and Council member Trayon White said he didn’t agree with portions of the bill but
supported it given he had earlier defeated the then-incumbent LaRuby May who in
2016 had outraised his campaign 8-to-1.
“The constant thing I keep hearing was that, ‘I don’t trust
politicians. I don’t trust what’s going on D.C. It was an issue for me,” said
The new bill will also separate the Campaign Finance Board of
the city from D.C. Board of Elections, establishing it as an independent office
that will enforce restrictions for contributions to new campaigns.
Before becoming a law, the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2017
must clear another vote in the council. Prior to that vote, the legislation is likely
to go through some revisions. The mayor then has to sign the bill and it needs to
be approved by Congress in order to become a law.