The National Taxpayers Union, a nationwide antitax group, has spent $43,202 on a drive for a November referendum in Washington that would authorize an educational tax credit of up to $1,200 a pupil in D.C. income tax regulations.
According to a campaign finance report filed with the D.C. Board of Elections, the petition drive has received only $100 from one local donor besides the money from the taxpayers union.
About half the money was used to pay for petition circulators, including some of their moving expenses and rent, the report indicates. The circulators gathered more than 27,000 signatures for the referendum.
Most of the petitions were rejected last month by the Elections Board -- even though they contained far more than the required number of signatures -- on grounds that 82 percent of them were obtained by seven out-of-towners who were not properly registered voters, a requirement of District law.
Earlier this week, the D.C. Committee for Improved Education, the group that mounted the tax credit drive, argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals that the question should be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot because the signatures were valid and the circulators had in fact registered as city voters.
In late August, the Appeals Court ordered the Elections Board to make sure the initiative does appear on the ballot if the court rules the board wrongly sought to keep it off.
The new campaign finance report, which covers activity through Aug. 10, also shows that the campaign paid $6,571 in consultant fees to Bill Keyes, an economist with the congressional Joint Economic Committee. Keyes serves as chairman of the tax credit drive. Almost $9,000 has gone for legal expenses.
D.C. City Council member Betty Ann Kane, a leading foe of the tax credit initiative, said this week that the large contribution by the taxpayers union "is just another indication that this committee and this initiative is not locally based and is using methods of deception."
Rita Smith, administrative director of the taxpayers union, said the education tax credit drive in Washington is an NTU project and is similar to drives it ran for tax limitation measures in several states, including Massachusetts and Missouri.
Smith said the Taxpayers Union had raised about $1.8 million this year from 140,000 contributors. Its most prominent project nationally has been a drive for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
"We're obviously not outsiders in Washington," Smith said. "Our office has been here for 10 years now . . . .Certainly, many citizens of Washington are not satisfied with the education of their children here. This initiative would give them a choice and also a tax break."
The proposed referendum would allow a deduction from the D.C. income tax return of up to $1,200 a pupil for expenses incurred at a private or a public school.