D.C.'s Evans Wielded Control Over Finances of PAC Account
Monday, October 10, 2005
D.C. Council member Jack Evans has controlled the finances of a political action committee for the past 11 years, using it to make political contributions and reimburse himself thousands of dollars in entertainment and travel expenses while regulators believed that others were operating the fund.
Evans has written some checks, in 2004 and again this year, that bear the same account number as the PAC but display only his name and home address. Officials at the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, who have begun an audit to determine whether the PAC's operations violated D.C. laws or regulations, said they did not realize that Evans was directing the PAC's expenditures or that he was using personalized checks.
Evans acknowledged in an interview that he has played a principal role in deciding how the PAC's money should be spent. Campaign finance records show that it has taken in $223,245 and spent $206,264 since summer 1993.
"It was my view that I could write checks and direct the money because it was my PAC," said Evans (D-Ward 2). "That was the assumption I was operating under." Of the checks, he said, "I wrote them, for the most part."
Regulators said that because the PAC had a separate treasurer and chairman, as required by law, they did not know that Evans was in charge of the money. Late last month, after The Washington Post interviewed Evans about his handling of the fund, the PAC's chairman notified the campaign finance office that it was being shut down.
PACs are generally formed to help political candidates, parties and the causes they support. But a public official cannot use a PAC, as he would a campaign fund, to make expenditures that promote his candidacy.
Officials at the D.C. Campaign Finance Office said their audit will examine, among other issues, whether some of the reimbursements Evans received from the PAC were improper and should have been paid for instead by his campaign committee or his D.C. Council constituent-services fund.
"Based on our interpretation of the law, the public official should not exercise control with respect to the political action committee," said the District's campaign finance director, Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery. "And based on the records we have here, this office had no reason to think council member Evans was in control."
Evans, a lawyer and the council's president pro tempore, is head of the Finance and Revenue Committee and has filed papers with the campaign finance office to run for council chairman in 2006. Regulators said that based on their records, they know of no other PAC in the District that operates like Evans's.
Evans filed a statement of organization for the PAC in 1993, naming himself treasurer, chairman and custodian of records, according to campaign finance documents. Regulators said such oversight of a PAC by a public official is not in itself a violation. The issue for campaign finance officials is how that oversight is exercised and whether it compromises the PAC's independence in making decisions to spend money on the public official's behalf.
If the audit determines that regulations were broken, the PAC could face civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.
In April 1994, Evans filled out resignation papers for the treasurer and chairman positions. Lawyers William N. Hall and Mark E. Grummer became chairman and treasurer, respectively, records show. The PAC then filed paperwork authorizing Evans to make withdrawals and payments, which the fund is permitted to do. But the PAC did not make him an officer of the fund or give him the power to oversee its money.