A D.C. Council member who is facing possible disciplinary action for failing to identify the source of contributions to his 2015 campaign also filed reports with regulators for his reelection last year that omitted information on tens of thousands in reported donations, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), a close ally of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), won a special election in 2015 to fill her seat after she became mayor. When he ran for reelection to a full term last year, his campaign failed to report addresses for 136 contributors who gave a total of $18,000.
For those entries, the campaign used a placeholder instead of a home address on campaign disclosure forms, suggesting it was trying to obtain more information on the source of the money: “Requested, Washington, D.C. 00000.”
For more than 1,200 of nearly 1,400 contributions, Todd’s campaign did not include a contributor’s employer or work address, again writing “Requested” next to contributions, or leaving the space blank.
D.C. law requires campaigns to provide a contributor’s home address, as well as employer and employment address, to verify the donor’s identity and make sure individuals who control multiple corporations do not exceed contribution limits by donating through different entities.
The Post found that among contributions to Todd’s 2016 campaign that were properly recorded, there were dozens of contributions greater than the legal limit of $500 per individual or business.
The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, which recently released a scathing audit of Todd’s 2015 special-election campaign, identified some of the same problems with Todd’s 2016 campaign accounting in letters to his campaign last year. Todd’s campaign responded by returning more than $7,000 in donations. But the campaign has filed no record of returning about $5,000 in apparent over-limit violations discovered by The Post.
Todd, campaign treasurer Ben Soto and Everett Hamilton, the head of a public relations firm who volunteered for Todd’s campaign, declined to discuss those contributions.
In a statement provided to The Post, Hamilton said Todd’s campaign is still finalizing its reports and could amend information it has already filed.
“The 2016 Brandon T. Todd for Ward 4 campaign is not the subject of any investigation by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance,” Hamilton said. “His committee, along with nearly 40 additional campaign committees from the 2016 election, is still open. We continue to file reports, amendments and respond to requests from OCF.”
In a subsequent phone interview on Friday, Soto promised the campaign would clean up Todd’s 2016 filings.
“We will return anything we find over the limit, and we will certainly be adding in address information for contributors and employer information, as well,” Soto said, although he added that some of the information may be impossible to find. “Sometimes someone sends you a check and unless you can Google them, you have no idea where they work . . . and sometimes you get a starter check that doesn’t even have an address on it.”
The five other successful candidates for council last year routinely filed reports on time, with more complete information on contributors’ employers, and with home addresses for almost every donation. Combined, the five others elected last year omitted addresses for a total of nine contributions.
Wesley Williams, a spokesman for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, would not comment directly on the agency’s oversight of Todd’s 2016 campaign. Generally, he said, auditors inform campaigns of missing contributor information and “the committee must detail what good-faith efforts they have made to obtain this information.”
“In the absence of compliance, the matter may be referred for enforcement action,” Williams said.
The agency recently did just that after its audit of Todd’s 2015 campaign that found the campaign did not adequately document more than $100,000 in contributions and failed to report an additional $34,000 in donations.
Those findings were presented to Todd’s campaign more than year ago — before he won reelection — but were not publicly disclosed until last week, when auditors concluded that despite repeated extensions, Todd’s campaign would not be able to sufficiently answer their questions. They referred the case to the agency’s general counsel for possible fines.
Asked about the audit of the 2015 campaign Friday on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on radio station WAMU, Todd said at least five times that he was committed to getting “every single piece of documentation” that is outstanding to the Office of Campaign Finance and that he hoped to do so within days.
“I can assure you that we can account for every single penny that came into our 2015 campaign and every single penny that went out,” said Todd, who directed finances for Bowser’s run for mayor.
Documents obtained by The Post show that while auditors were still seeking responses from Todd about his 2015 campaign, they were finding new issues with his 2016 campaign. Four times last year they wrote to Soto, the campaign treasurer, to question contributions or expenditures. They listed contributions with identical addresses and asked for more information to verify that they were not violations of city law. The campaign finance office also presented Todd’s campaign with lists of “Questionable Expenditures.”
Among those were $25,000 in payments to Todd’s personal credit card account. The campaign responded by providing copies of credit card statements and saying that purchases such as $2,600 to AAA Party Rentals and $1,600 to the restaurant Sala Thai were campaign expenses.
Candidates for office in the District are required to register the bank accounts they will use for campaign contributions and expenditures. Most often, candidates use credit cards linked to those accounts, reimburse expenses directly to vendors from those accounts or reimburse campaign staffers for expenditures made out of pocket.
But Todd’s use of a personal credit card issued by Navy Federal Credit Union means he accumulated more than 46,000 rewards points in 2016, according to a statement he provided to regulators in November. Those points can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, travel or merchandise, according to the bank’s website.
City law prohibits a candidate from personally profiting from a campaign.
Several council members, including Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who heads the committee with oversight of campaign finance, declined to comment. He and others said they first wanted to see what the Office of Campaign Finance would do in the case of Todd’s audit from his 2015 campaign.
Soto said he is confident questions will be cleared up about all of Todd’s campaign finances.
“Clearly, there have been some unforced errors, but we have copies of everything. I expect us to have a clean bill of health when this is over,” he said. “In terms of misappropriated money, no, there’s none.”
Steven Rich contributed to this report.