Pay to Play Reform Sign-On Letter
December 2018

Dear Mayor Bowser, Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers,

As Washington, D.C. leaders who are concerned about racial equity and about the well being of our democracy, we call on you to enact, provide funding for, and adequately implement the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018 (B22-0107), which would begin to curb pay-to-play politics in the district, reform oversight of the District’s campaign finance laws and ensure contribution limits are respected.

These important reforms would build upon the District’s recently enacted public financing program and make D.C. government more responsive to D.C. residents, rather than wealthy special interests.

We applaud your bold leadership in enacting the Fair Elections Act. Fair Elections embodies a vision of D.C. politics that is more inclusive of people of color, women and younger people. The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act builds upon that vision and will bolster the Fair Elections Act by reducing the influence of wealthy developers and corporations in D.C. politics.

This bill responds to our concerns about the undue influence of wealthy developers and corporations in D.C. politics by prohibiting contractors from contributing to candidates. Pay-to-play politics have tarnished the D.C.’s image for far too long.

But more importantly, as residents, we have had to live with the lower quality of services and inequality this system brings. Contractors without the means to “pay” are known to not bid on contracts where their competitor enjoys favoritism. D.C. residents deserve the high-quality and reliable services a competitive bidding process promotes. With this law, D.C. would join the federal government and 17 other states and municipalities with pay-to-play restrictions.

Additionally, the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act would create a new, standalone, five-member Campaign Finance Board (“CFB”) to oversee the administration and enforcement of the District’s campaign finance laws. An independent board with subject-matter expertise is critical as the District launches its new Fair Elections Program. A specialized board will provide the guidance and expertise necessary to support and effective campaign finance agency.

Finally, as so-called “independent” spending has increased at every level of government, it is necessary to ensure that this spending is actually independent of candidates. Candidates coordinating with outside groups seriously undermines contribution limits and discourages small-dollar donors from participating in the process.

The need for effective coordination laws is heightened in a public financing system: Public financing programs like Fair Elections, seek to amplify the role of small donors and reduce the influence of wealthy special interests; publicly financed candidates should not continue to rely on special interests through improper coordinated spending.

We urge you to vote in favor of the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018, fund it adequately, and ensure its implementation in a timely manner.


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