PAC or Piggy Bank?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

THE D.C. OFFICE of Campaign Finance is conducting an audit of a political action committee known as the D.C. Fund (formerly the "Jack PAC"), which should be of more than passing interest to District voters because of the involvement of Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans (D). At issue is whether Mr. Evans, an announced candidate for council chairman next year, violated D.C. campaign finance law and regulations in the use of a political action committee's funds. Given his senior status on the council and his aspiration to higher office, the outcome of the audit could have a bearing on Mr. Evans's political future.

In 1993 Mr. Evans organized the "Jack PAC," a political action committee, naming himself treasurer, chairman and custodian of records, which is a lawful act. Last year, at the urging of the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), which ruled that a council member should not have any direct involvement or coordination with PAC expenditures, Mr. Evans resigned the chairman and treasurer's jobs, turning the positions over to William N. Hall and Mark E. Grummer, respectively. The PAC, however, authorized Mr. Evans to make withdrawals and payments, but did not make him an officer or grant him oversight responsibility for the money.

So what's the problem? Campaign finance officials are conducting an audit, reported Post writer Serge F. Kovaleski, to determine whether Mr. Evans received improper reimbursements and whether some of his claimed expenses should been paid for by his campaign committee or his council constituent services fund.

To understand the nature of OCF concerns, consider that office's description of a "PAC": "a political action committee is designed to, among other things, promote or oppose the nomination or election of an individual to office; and to support persons and programs that share its ideals, and to contest those that do not." PAC spending, the Office of Campaign Finance asserts, should be made on behalf of candidates seeking office. Now consider some of the expenditures by Mr. Evans's PAC:

After first claiming that a $6,772.72 reimbursement from the PAC was for his business and travel expenses on a 11-day trip to China and Thailand in October 2004, Mr. Evans now discloses that his PAC expenditures went toward the lodging, some of the meals and some travel inside China for a close friend who traveled with him.

Meals at local restaurants listed as "constituent lunch," "airfare from vacation to attend the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick's Dinner," "airfare from vacation to attend the D.C. Marathon," refund for expenses incurred during a retail and shopping center convention in Las Vegas, and a refund "for local travel to attend annual July 4th events."

Repayment for the events, which the PAC said were political in nature, related to District business or the kind of events the PAC is supposed to cover, was handled by Evans himself, The Post reports.

Capital crimes? Of course not. Improper spending? Mr. Evans insists that his PAC, which he has now closed, "has operated in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations." Thus a formal OCF audit -- a closely watched event early in the D.C. political

season.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company