A file containing original documents and bank account information related to the campaign of a D.C. Council member has gone missing at the office where his campaign finances are under audit, according to D.C. elections officials.
Wesley Williams, a spokesman for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, says staffers there are “in the process of locating” the file containing records pertaining to D.C. Council Member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4).
Williams said he did not know how long the file has been missing but said it had not affected the audit, because most of the information contained in the file was backed up electronically.
But two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so, said the paperwork has not been seen in weeks. Such files are normally kept in a locked cabinet, the officials said.
The Office of Campaign Finance published an audit in late March that found Todd had been unable to document more than $100,000 in contributions reported by his 2015 campaign.
Todd was the finance chairman of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s 2014 mayoral campaign and was her hand-picked choice to fill the remainder of her Ward 4 council term, which he won in a 2015 special election. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The audit into his 2015 finances also found that Todd had failed to report an additional $34,000 in donations. Attorneys at the Office of Campaign Finance are weighing whether to fine the campaign for violations.
Meanwhile, a review of Todd’s campaign finances published last month by The Washington Post also found problems with his 2016 reelection campaign. The Post found Todd’s reports to regulators omitted required information about tens of thousands in reported donations.
The issue of the missing file became a spectacle at the Office of Campaign Finance on Monday when two supporters of Leon Andrews, who had lost to Todd, asked to see the public documents in Todd’s campaign file.
Mary Pence, a retired family law attorney, said she and her husband, Dan, were initially told the file was not where it was supposed to be. The Pences, who have lived in the District for 39 years, repeatedly asked to speak with supervisors and ended up with campaign finance director Cecily E. Collier-
Pence said agency officials initially told her they would locate the file within a day. On Tuesday, Pence said she was told her inquiry would be treated like a Freedom of Information Act request, giving the agency 15 days to respond.
“This may be something, the start of an inquiry that goes somewhere, or it may be nothing,” Pence said.
“We’ve been reading in the newspaper what seems like a lot of inadequacies, and, really, horrific problems with Mr. Todd’s findings. . . . My greatest concern is ethical behavior by our elected officials.”
The irregularities have drawn the attention of Karl A. Racine, the District’s first elected attorney general. Racine has authority to investigate campaign finance violations but must notify the U.S. attorney’s office if he initiates such a probe.
In an interview, Racine said he has had “discussions” with the U.S. attorney’s office but would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said he has “no comment on this particular matter.”
Racine has introduced a package of campaign finance reforms that are pending before the D.C. Council. Asked whether he intended to investigate Todd’s campaign finances, Racine said, “Issues of campaign finance are entirely appropriate matters for the Office of the Attorney General to focus resources on.”
The Office of Campaign Finance is facing criticism from the D.C. Council and Todd’s rivals over the timing of the audit release.
Preliminary findings were shared with Todd’s campaign more than a year ago but were not made public until months after he won reelection last year to a full four-year term.
Todd and Bowser shared several of the same campaign operatives, including treasurer Ben Soto.
Soto said Wednesday that he was unaware that the candidate’s file had gone missing.
He said OCF officials did not mention a missing file when they met two weeks ago to try to answer auditors’ questions. Todd campaign officials have since filed to close the campaign account, saying they have answered all concerns.
“We’ve given them everything,” Soto said. “The ball is in their court.”
In an emailed response to questions from a Post reporter about the missing file, Williams sent a blind copy of the exchange to Michael Bennett, chairman of the D.C. Board of Elections, using Bennett’s private email address — not his government account.
The D.C. Board of Elections oversees the Office of Campaign Finance; Bennett is appointed by Bowser.
Bennett seemed to approve of the explanation that Williams offered, that Todd’s missing records were not problematic because most had been digitally scanned. “Good response,” Bennett wrote to Williams.
Some D.C. Council members say the Office of Campaign Finance should be placed under an agency that is independent of the mayor. A majority of the council has said it will back legislation to prevent a repeat of the way the audit into Todd’s campaign was not disclosed before his run for reelection.