District residents will not have a chance to decide whether to ban corporate contributions in local politics after regulators said the initiative's supporters didn't collect enough signatures to secure a place on the November ballot. The activists, though, said they are considering an appeal.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled Wednesday that the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust had fallen 1,726 signatures short of the 23,298 to put Initiative 70 before voters. The proposal would have barred donations by corporations to campaigns, transition and inauguration committees, legal defense groups and programs that handle constituent requests.
Organizers needed to submit valid signatures from 5 percent of the District's registered voters to guarantee a citywide vote.
|Mendelson, two others running for chair|
|Qualifying for the special election to finish the term of former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown ended Wednesday, and Phil Mendelson, the at-large councilman who took over for Brown in June, is poised to begin the campaign as the heavy favorite. He and two others -- John Cheeks and Calvin Gurley -- filed petitions to appear on the ballot. The winner will serve as chairman until January 2015.|
"If we didn't get the ballot signatures, we didn't get the ballot signatures," said Bryan Weaver, one of the leaders of the petition drive, who added that organizers would decide within days whether to appeal. "We didn't go out and hire someone to get signatures for us. This was citizen-led and volunteer-driven."
He said he was "confident that we have the valid number of signatures" and said an appeal, if the activists chose to file one, would focus on about 3,100 signatures
that authorities said were invalid because the addresses on the petitions didn't match those in voter registration records.
Under D.C. law, an appeal has to be filed within 10 days.
Weaver's group began collecting signatures in the spring as federal investigations into the campaigns of Mayor Vincent Gray and now-ousted D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown accelerated. The probes have since netted guilty pleas from four people, including Brown.
Investigators are also looking into the activities of Jeffrey Thompson, a prolific campaign contributor and major city contractor whose home and offices were raided in March. Thompson and a network of family members, friends, business associates and companies combined to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to District politicians through the years.
Gray's administration outlined its own plans for campaign finance reform in May, but Gray's proposal on campaign contributions was not as sweeping as the ballot initiative and focused on limiting donations from aspiring or existing city contractors. D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who spearheaded the development of Gray's proposal, had described the ballot initiative as a "meat-ax way" to approach reform.
At a Wednesday morning news conference ahead of the board's decision, Gray pointedly declined to support Initiative 70 and said he was planning to finish his review of his administration's campaign finance legislation by the end of the week.