There will be no campaign finance reform for Christmas

Cheh withdrew her last-ditch reform bill. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Updated 9 p.m.

It briefly appeared like the D.C. Council might pass, or at least consider, a campaign finance reform measure before its term would to a close. Last week, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said she’d introduce an emergency bill at the council’s last meeting of the year to ban campaign contributions by money order in excess of $25.

That’s a measure that was much discussed earlier this year, when reporters founds scads of untraceable money orders inside various politicos’ campaign coffers. But nothing is ever so simple. Chairman Phil Mendelson and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) wondered about the effects of money order curbs on the “unbanked,” while Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) wanted to use the opportunity to push broader reforms — setting up a series of uncomfortable votes for his colleagues.

So, at 7:26 p.m. Tuesday, Cheh introduced her bill only to swiftly (and “reluctantly“) withdraw it. The upshot is that there will be no more strictures in place for April 23 special election for an at-large council member then there were in the 2011 special election, during which $26,000 in suspicious money orders tied to city contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson made their way into Vincent B. Orange’s campaign coffers.

Speaking of the April special election: Today was the first meeting for Anita D. Bonds (D-At Large), the interim appointee who will likely appear on the April ballot. There were no single-vote margins as of 7:50 p.m., so her vote was not decisive on any matters. But there was one matter in which she had a curious interest: Orange proposed a sense-of-the-council resolution urging the Board of Elections to allow the D.C. Democratic State Committee to elect its members during the April election.

Bonds — the chairwoman of the DCDSC, who set in motion the events requiring the resolution — voted with the rest of the council in favor of the measure. “Any abstentions?” Mendelson asked during the vote, glancing in her direction. She remained silent.

Update, 9 p.m.: Bonds said it was her intention not to participate in the vote, even if she wasn’t recorded as sitting out: “I just didn’t say anything,” she said, adding that “it was a decision of the council, and not something Anita particularly requested.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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Mike DeBonis · December 18, 2012