Cheh targets money orders
Measure would cap them at $25
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh is set to introduce legislation on Tuesday that puts contributions in the form of a money order on par with cash, capping them at $25 to avoid the suspicions and federal inquiries that shook the D.C. campaign process last week.
Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, directed her staff to craft the legislation shortly after the U.S. attorney sent a series of subpoenas to the campaigns of at least six council members as part of a probe into one of the city’s most prolific political donors.
Nelson Ayala, a campaign treasurer for D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said on Friday he had already complied with a subpoena that federal prosecutors sent on Wednesday requesting documents relating to Mr. Graham’s campaign funding from 2005 to 2010.
The number of council members linked to the federal review of contributions from Jeffery E. Thompson, his companies and his associates grew throughout the week, after reports of the subpoenas surfaced on Tuesday. Mr. Thompson, an accountant who holds a lucrative managed-care contract with the city known as D.C. Chartered Health Plan, is renowned for his ability to raise cash for local politicians, although there are questions about the timing and form of certain donations. No one has been accused of any crimes.
Although federal investigators have not disclosed what they are looking for, discussion around city hall suggests the use of money orders — which could be used to
Federal Highway Administration (FHA) program manager Edward Sundra was added to the lawsuit in 2010, becoming the fourth individual charged with “blatant and intentional” neglect of anti-discrimination laws, along with Mr. Homer, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and FHA Administrator Victor Mendez.
The state abandoned efforts to build the project on Interstate 395 in February 2011, and Arlington subsequently dropped the lawsuit. Last July, Mr. Homer was denied repayment of his attorneys’ fees after arguing that he deserved them as a “prevailing party” in the lawsuit.
The legal action strained the county’s relations with Richmond, where many were outraged that individuals, including a career civil service employee, had to defend themselves against charges of civil rights violations for approving the construction project.
The House during the recent legislative session passed its version of the budget with the amendment intact, but the Senate has not passed its budget or the House plan. It remains to be seen whether the amendment will remain when lawmakers gather in special session to craft a spending plan after adjourning without passing a budget.
Arlington officials say the amendment is punitive.
“There’s a lot of feeling among people that Arlington continuing that lawsuit, and especially against individuals . . . was an abuse of its authority, and this is designed to punish Arlington for having continued it,” said Delegate Robert H. Brink, Arlington Democrat.
Last year, Delegate Timothy D. Hugo helped kill a bill to extend the sunset date of an additional 0.25 percent on a hotel tax that would have generated an estimated $3 million for Arlington County through 2015.
The Fairfax Republican, citing the HOT lanes controversy, said that if the county had a million dollars to spend on a lawsuit, then it didn’t need the money that would come from the tax.
The measure was killed, and the county was ultimately billedmore than $2 million for the lawsuit.
Mr. Brink agreed that the lawsuit should not have continued to include Mr. Pierce in his personal capacity, but that items such as this year’s budget amendments were unnecessary.
“I made clear last year that I thought that the suit probably shouldn’t have gone against individuals,” he said. “I don’t think that punishing the county as a whole for an action that the county took in good faith defending the rights of its citizens — I don’t think that that’s the proper way to go.”