D.C. Council candidate David Grosso is asking the Office of Campaign Finance to freeze incumbent Michael A. Brown’s campaign account until it completes an ongoing audit of his finances.
Grosso, an independent from Brookland, is stepping up the pressure on both OCF and Brown following the office’s controversial decision that allows Brown to temporarily shield his campaign spending from public view.
In July, Brown (I-at large) reported to police and the media that he believes “a significant” amount of money may have been stolen from his re-election account. In response, D.C. police and OCF have launched separate inquiries.
While it looks into the matter, OCF officials have informed Brown he doesn’t need to file his campaign finance reports. Grosso has argued that a decision puts challengers, including himself, at a major disadvantage in the scramble for votes in the Nov. 6 election.
Though Gross and the other candidates in the race were required to file a report two weeks ago, they remain in the dark about how much Brown has to spend for the final two months of the campaign.
OCF officials have been relatively tight-lipped about their unusual decision; on Monday the Washington Post published an editorial blasting it.
Grosso wrote to Cecily Collier-Montgomery, director of OCF, this week arguing that Brown shouldn’t be allowed to spend any campaign money if he’s not required to file timely reports.
“If there is no certain time frame that can be shared with the public and transparency and fairness are not part of your consideration, then the only just decision is for you to order that the Michael Brown 2012 campaign cease all raising and spending of campaign finances,” Grosso wrote. “Furthermore, would it not be the correct action for OCF, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Department, to freeze all the bank accounts associated with the Michael Brown 2012 campaign until the investigation has been finalized?”
Wesley Williams, an OCF spokesman, declined comment until the elections board can review the matter.
Asher Corson, a Brown spokesman, called Grosso’s letter “a desperate attempt” based on “false and uniformed statements.”
Corson said Brown closed his initial account when he asked for the police investigation and opened a new one. As for not having to file, Corson said the Brown campaign is simply complying with the wishes of OCF.
“It’s a question for OCF, and not for us,” said Corson, noting the campaign had voluntarily released its donations. “We released more information than we are required to…It’s distasteful and unethical for our opponent to try to exploit the fact that we were the victims of a crime.”
Grosso counters he’s just trying to assure “there is a fair process.”
“It just seems completely unfair that everyone has to file these reports, when they are exempt from doing so,” Grosso said. “We only have 70 days left to the election…That just seems blatantly unfair.”