D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) on Tuesday resurrected proposals she once supported to place strict new curbs on campaign fundraising. The bill she introduced bans contributions from corporate entities and restricts what individuals holding or seeking city contracts can give to campaigns.
Her bill comes not three months after she was on the majority end of a series of 12-to-1 votes to defeat ethics-bill amendments containing many of those same restrictions. At the time and today, Cheh said she opposed the proposals put forward by colleague Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) because she expected a separate campaign finance bill to be offered soon afterward.
So what happened to make Cheh jump?
No bill has yet been offered by ethics bill shepherd Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) or anyone else, and on Friday the home and offices of leading campaign fundraiser Jeffrey E. Thompson were raided by federal authorities. But Cheh herself said it was another event that compelled her to revisit campaign finance issues so quickly after the ethics vote — and in the middle of campaign season, at that.
Cheh said she saw evidence of “pay-to-play” in the final vote that killed the bill. At the time, I calculated that the six who voted in favor of the bill — Cheh, Wells, Michael Brown, David Catania, Jim Graham and Phil Mendelson — collected $6,300 from Mamo, relatives and related companies for their campaign and constituent service funds. The six who voted to kill the bill — Bowser, Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, Jack Evans and Vincent Orange — took in $40,250.
“That set me on a path where this was going to be coming, Jeff Thompson or not ... Could there be more direct cause-and-effect between showering people with money and voting a certain way?” Cheh said today. “I just decided I’m not waiting anymore. I feel this sense of urgency has taken hold. I think people would want us to do something.”
Wells, who has also publicly spoken in favor of a pending ballot initiative to ban corporate contributions to city campaigns, co-introduced the bill with Cheh.
Bowser, who is currently in the midst of a reelection campaign, did not immediately return a call for comment this evening.