Sweeping changes to campaign-finance regulations in the nation’s capital are on track to become law after Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) opted not to veto legislation passed by the D.C. Council.
Bowser, who had refused to take a public stance on the bill’s core provisions, allowed it to advance without signing it — a way of expressing her disapproval that stops short of a veto.
Among other things, the measure would ban campaign contributions from companies and their top executives if they hold or are seeking government contracts worth at least $250,000; give new authority and independence to the city’s Office of Campaign Finance; and require increased disclosure from independent expenditure committees.
The Council unanimously approved the bill last month.
During an interview Friday on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU-88.5, Bowser said the new legislation is not an improvement on the status quo, in which businesses that obtain government contracts are free to fund the campaigns of the elected officials who control those contracts. The mayor suggested that such donations pose no problem as long as they are adequately disclosed.
“I highly value how candidates disclose. I highly value that we have a simple process that everybody understands,” Bowser said. “I don’t think the council landed in the right place.” She said the new legislation is “confusing, in a lot of ways.”
Council member and judiciary committee chairman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who led the push for the legislation, said its main tenets were simple. He said it was “fantastic” that the mayor had allowed it to advance, even though she did not sign it.
“We’re doing more to get big money out of our local politics, and to do more to get real or perceived ‘pay-to-play’ out of our politics,” Allen said.
The bill will head to Congress for a mandatory review period. If U.S. lawmakers do not act to reverse it, the legislation’s regulations would take effect during the 2022 election cycle. A separate bill passed by the Council that establishes public financing for local campaigns will take effect during the 2020 election cycle.