Brown Holds Party To Pay Off` Election Debt

By Hamil R. Harris, Nikita Stewart, Mary Beth Sheridan and Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Freshman D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At Large), who blanketed the city with literature and inundated voters with automated calls during his election campaign, held a debt retirement party this week at the home of Debra Lee, Black Entertainment Television chief executive.

Brown, a son of the late former Commerce secretary Ronald Brown, said that all vendors were paid but that he would like to pay his staff members and himself. Brown lent money to his campaign but said in a brief interview that he could not remember the exact amount. The most recent campaign finance records available online show that Brown's campaign spent more than $187,000 just before the November election and that a loan of $27,856 was still outstanding.

Brown said that he is not sure how much more he spent by Election Day but that he wanted to "clean up what little change is out."

A Permanent Tax Holiday?

One of the most vocal proponents of the D.C. voting rights bill offered a financial alternative to getting a vote in Congress: Relieve D.C. residents of the obligation to pay federal taxes.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) told the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Tuesday that he will introduce a bill this week to exempt D.C. residents from paying taxes.

"Taxation without representation -- that slogan has made an impression on me," Gohmert said.

But D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) dismissed the announcement as a stunt. She introduced a similar bill several years ago -- no representation, no federal taxes -- but the measure "got nowhere," she said.

Norton's voting rights bill would add two seats to the House, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other for the next state in line to pick up an additional seat. That's now Utah, which leans Republican.

A New Tool for Tenants

People who live in D.C. apartment buildings with, for example, rodents, poor running water and no heat have choices, said D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), even though the choices are not that great: They can move. They can stop paying rent, get an eviction notice and pray that the Landlord and Tenant Branch of D.C. Superior Court accepts housing violations as an excuse. Or they can file a suit in Superior Court, which requires the payment of fees many residents can't afford.

During the D.C. Council meeting Tuesday, Cheh offered tenants more. Under her proposal, tenants could pursue legal action against landlords in the Tenant and Landlord Branch for unsanitary conditions without paying high administrative fees.

"You will now be able to proactively go in and seek an order and/or some ruling of the court that this building isn't being properly maintained and not wait to be evicted because you're not paying your rent," Cheh said of the bill.

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