IF THE 11 Democratic members of the 13-member D.C. Council have partisan nerve enough, they could pull off a fast one for their party that would put city hall in charge of a fund- raiser to beat all. It's council member John A. Wilson's idea -- and if it weren't already in official draft form, you'd swear he must be kidding. The bill would set up a system under which every District taxpayer could designate $1 of his or her tax refund (refund, not payment) to be withheld and turned over to a political party. A political party fund would be established within the D.C. government's general fund. That's bad -- but hold on, it gets worse: the mayor would be in charge of regulating and distributing the money from the fund to the parties.

Why on earth should the city government be raising funds for political parties? This isn't at all what that checkoff on your federal tax return is about; that arrangement allows a taxpayer to direct $1 on a nonpartisan basis for allocations to presidential candidates who meet certain conditions. Mr. Wilson's scheme would directly line party pockets, and the biggest pocket by far would be the Democrats'. Of the District's 260,726 registered voters, 210,168 are registered Democratic and 20,190 are registered Republican.

True, each voter would decide whether to contribute this way and to which party. But that's not a job for city hall -- even one in a town with a real two-or-more-party system.