DC for Democracy’s special election questionnaire for the Ward 4 Special Election asked the following questions about public financing, campaign finance reform and the influence of monied interests in DC politics:
1a) A number of jurisdictions provide public financing to political campaigns who meet certain requirements. The campaign must receive small donations (as low as $5 per person) from a specified minimum number of individuals. In addition, candidates must agree to certain conditions (for example, limits on how much their campaign may spend, limits on how much any individual may donate, and a ban on contributions from corporations and political action committees).
As a Councilmember would you vote to establish such a system in DC? Why or why not?
In the current Council period, Chairman Mendelson has introduced the Contractor Pay-to-Play Elimination Amendment Act of 2015. Instead of using the conventional approach of banning contractors from donating to campaigns, the bill would ban donors from receiving government contracts.
2a) As a Councilmember, will you vote in favor of this legislation?
2b) What have you done in the past to limit the influence of monied interests in DC government?
Ward 8 special election candidates
Note: candidates who are not listed did not respond to our questionnaire.
1a) Yes. Especially in Ward 8, many voters can only afford to donate very small amounts to a campaign. Without public financing to supplement the donations of these individuals, those who can donate much, much more money will dominate the election and, then, dominate decision making by public officials who are willing to trade their votes for big money support in future campaigns. Thus such a system would give people with limited financial resources some leverage, so that they can complete with deep pocket people.
1b) Yes. Many wealthy individuals and organizations donate in order to get government contracts and other favors like grants and tax breaks. Chairman Mendelson’s bill will keep people from contributing in order to win favors for themselves and their organizations. We need this! This Bill is a step in the right direction!
2b) My campaign is of the people and by the people. In my campaign, I show how other candidates (specifically LaRuby May and Natalie Williams) put the interests of developers, corporations and fat-cat donors ahead of the interests of Ward 8 residents. And, I have stood in the ranks of those protesting against influence of money in campaigns.
1a) In general, I am supportive of publicly financed campaigns. I would vote to establish such a system in DC if it were well planned and the appropriate funding source identified. I believe publicly financed campaigns can combat elections being dominated by bundlers, big donors, secret contributions and the like. That kind of campaign action can lead to scandal and corruption, and furthermore, cause an extremely uneven playing field among candidates. Oftentimes, we see candidates become indebted to special-interest influence rather than be beholden to the people they were elected to serve.
2a) I am generally supportive of the goals reflected in this bill but have a few concerns regarding the specifics. Although the Gray Administration supported the intent of this bill when Chairman Mendelson introduced it in 2014, we believed that there were several substantive changes that needed to be made to the bill. I would like to review the current bill to ascertain whether or not
those concerns have been addressed.
2b) I strongly support limits on government contractors’ ability to influence the awarding of government contracts. As a senior leader in the Gray Administration, I worked with Mayor Gray and the then Attorney General to propose legislation that would ban the practice of “pay-to-play” politics. The reform package sought to curb political donations from anyone with a city contract of $250,000 or more, prohibit lobbyists from bundling contributions, and ban corporations from donating through various linked entities. Further, it would have required that all campaign donations within 30 days of an election be disclosed within 24 hours.
1a) Yes, I support clean elections and public financing that limits campaign spending. Public financing will help to level the playing field and hopefully diminish the incumbent advantage, so that anyone who is qualified and committed to public service has an opportunity to run for office.
2a) I do believe that there should be limits on the number of contracts a contractor can receive after they have made donations to political campaigns.
2b) I led a coalition across Ward 8 to stop a private prison from being built in the Ward that was supported by K street lobbyists and powerful law firms. I also was a part of group that fought back against a proposed plan to build a trash transfer station in Ward 8 at a time when we didn’t even have a grocery store.
1a) With new residents settling in the District, unfamiliar ideas with catchy phrases and seemingly good intentions are coming into play. Before I would vote to establish such a system, I must carefully examine the pros and cons, hold hearings and attend small neighborhood meetings to determine exactly how my constituents want to proceed. With public financing to political campaigns, candidates with meager funds are able to participate in the process. But on the other hand, when you have a large number of candidates such as the 16 we have in the Ward 8 special election, taxpayers dollars would be used to finance a majority of these campaigns. Would this become another tax burden on District residents? Since there can only be one winner, the majority of the funds will go to losers. More time is needed to reflect on this issue.
2a) Yes, I would definitely vote in favor of this legislation. In fact, it amazed me in this special election, the original councilmember that introduced legislation to ensure “ethical” behavior among councilmembers, the mayor, other elected officials and city administrators is “allegedly” currently involved in such “pay-to-play” schemes in her new role as DC Mayor. At least three developers contacted my campaign because of “alleged” harassment by our current mayor to donate to the candidates of her choice. Not only were the coerced into these donations, each was told that if they did not contribute, she would remember their rebellion after the election. In other words, pay now and pay again and again. Why has this been a common practice in DC where a sitting mayor calls contractors demanding that they donate to a political campaign? I thought about turning this information over to the DC Attorney General’s Office. I am still undecided. This alleged unethical behavior represents the fact that not only are companies seeking to “pay-to-play” but some elected officials and administrators demand it to do business in DC. From what we have been able to ascertain there may be at least three pay-to-play campaign schemes underway with at least three of the female candidates. The mainstream media has also contributed to this phenomena by always declaring the top candidates based on well-financed campaigns, rather than the substance or good organization of the political campaigns. The battle continues on how we get the public to realize that lots of small donations from the people versus big bucks from controlling interests is the best route to take. Nevertheless, pay-to-play must be stopped.
2b) I am a fourth generation native Washingtonian who grew up in Ward 8. I attended DC public schools and graduated from Ballou Senior High School. Unlike some of my opponents, I am the embodiment of what the heart of Ward 8 represents – decent and hardworking Black people caught in the middle of the chaos that has existed for decades. Over the years, Ward 8 became a haven for low income housing where rents were subsidized by the local and federal government. This was and still is a huge “monied” interest in Ward 8. Tens of thousands of Ward 8 residents became dependent on government subsidized housing which is now being threatened due to cuts in housing benefits. Developers and investment owners understand there is more money available from urban professionals seeking a decent, safe and affordable place to live. The biggest question facing “monied” interests is how to attract urban professionals to crime ridden neighborhoods. I have served for 24 years as an advisory neighborhood commissioner. In that elected position, I have a proven record of leadership, integrity and commitment to the residents of Ward 8. My focus has always been what was best for my constituents. I held meetings and went door-todoor to obtain feedback on certain issues. The one thing that remains consistent is the need for a sound community benefits agreement that must be implemented, unaltered and monitored as designed. In the last administration, when “monied” interests bulldozed a project in Ward 8 only a few people benefited from the experience. With a sound and well-planned community benefits agreement, neighborhoods will reap the benefit of the projects for decades. Thus it becomes a win for all.
Sandra “S.S” Seegars
1a) As a person who believes in fairness and honesty, I would support a system that limits contributions and spending. I voted yes on the referendum that limited contributions to $400.00, but the same City Council members who want voting rights vetoed the citizens’ vote. For the sake of this question, I am sure DC for Democracy is not going to endorse a candidate who raised an excessive amount of money, which seems to be a method of buying an election.
2a) I would support this bill.
2b) In Ward 8, this problem has not been widespread, however, I did vote yes on the $400.00 campaign contribution limit.
1a) It is far better, I believe for a large number of citizens to influence an election with individual contributions than for a few special interests to dominate. However, individuals (including Chiropractors and members of other organizations) do not have
the wherewithal to pay the entire bill for election campaigns. Hence, I favor public supplements to individual contributions. Matching programs in New York and Connecticut are worth our consideration.
2a) Chairman Mendelson’s reform is certainly worth considering as this bill to restrict those who make large donations from receiving DC contracts or other benefits — for about a year after their candidate’s election to office. This approach surely would discourage contributions from those whose motivation was gaining special access to contracts or other government largess.
Perhaps the most important ethics reform is for the people of DC to raise up against ethical violations and government officials who use their positions to benefit themselves and their friends. The success of reform-oriented campaigns in recent elections has
shown that the people of DC are expecting and demanding ethics reform.
2b) My position has remained working in an underserved community and no being able to be compensated under Medicaid for the work I do as a chiropractor, however, I spearheaded the cause for its inclusion working with former At-Large David Catania, CM Alexander and other stakeholders in the creation of Bills 20-174 which will come up reintroduction in the new Mayors term. I proactively engage in causes to protect the public, promote transparency and equality.
1a) Yes. In fact I started a petition about controlling the donation process for keeping it democratic and making sure everyday people are donating and influencing the political process not big business.
2a) I’m not familiar with the entire legislation however this is a crafty way to ensure that we put an end to the pay to play type of politics that have plague DC.
2b) As I have stated before, I started a petition to control some of the influence of monied interest in government, in hopes of having a more representative City Council that addresses the needs of the people, and not the needs of the special interest.