Cam­paign fi­nance fix ‘daunt­ing,’ Gray says

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray said Wed­nes­day that it is time to take a “broad look” at staffing lev­els in the Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance and the laws that gov­ern po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to city races.

Elected of­fi­cials in the Dis­trict are fac­ing mount­ing pres­sure to over­haul the way the city reg­u­lates cam­paign fi­nanc­ing, sim­i­lar to the way they passed sweep­ing ethics re­form at the end of last year.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors sent sub­poe­nas to at least six D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers this month re­quest­ing records of con­tri­bu­tions from Jef­frey E. Thompson, his com­pa­nies and his as­so­ciates.

Mr. Gray’s cam­paign also ac­cepted do­na­tions from the net­work around Mr. Thompson, an ac­com­plished ac­coun­tant and holder of a lu­cra­tive man­aged­care con­tract with the city through his D.C. Char­tered Health Plan. Mr. Gray’s cam­paign has not re­ceived a sub­poena, but it may be un­nec­es­sary

drop in ap­proval rat­ings and the pas­sage of con­tro­ver­sial bills dur­ing the leg­isla­tive ses­sion. The poll showed that a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers op­posed a bill that will re­quire women to un­dergo ul­tra­sound imag­ing be­fore they get an abor­tion and also op­posed an­other bill that re­peals the state’s ban on pur­chas­ing more than one hand­gun per month.

Mr. Mcdon­nell’s 53 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing was the gov­er­nor’s low­est since Quin­nip­iac be­gan sur­vey­ing vot­ers in the state last June.

“On the other hand, his num­bers are still re­ally, re­ally good,” Mr. Brown said.

De­spite their neg­a­tive job-ap­proval num­bers, law­mak­ers gath­ered in Rich­mond to hash out a bud­get deal seemed to be in good spir­its.

A group of six del­e­gates and six sen­a­tors is work­ing to craft a com­pro­mise on the state’s spend­ing plan and to ad­dress a list of de­mands from Se­nate Democrats. The group was a bit cagey about the de­tails of ne­go­ti­a­tions but re­ported mak­ing progress.

The Re­pub­li­can-led House passed its ver­sion of the bud­get, but the 20mem­ber Se­nate Demo­cratic cau­cus suc­cess­fully blocked both the House and Se­nate bud­gets dur­ing the reg­u­lar ses­sion, call­ing for more eq­ui­table com­mit­tee rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the evenly di­vided cham­ber and more money for ed­u­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion, among other items. Re­pub­li­can Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s tiebreak­ing vote in the Se­nate does not ex­tend to bud­get mat­ters.

Sen. Charles J. Col­gan, Prince Wil­liam Demo­crat and one of the 12 ne­go­tia­tors, said Democrats have got­ten much of what they re­quested, in­clud­ing more money to off­set the high cost of liv­ing for North­ern Virginia school per­son­nel, as well as funds for K-12 and pre-k ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr. Col­gan said com­mit­tee as­sign­ments have not been part of the bud­get dis­cus­sions. He said he thought his party has got­ten enough for him to vote in fa­vor of the bud­get. Repub­li­cans would need just one Demo­crat to break ranks.

Is­sues still un­re­solved as of late Wed­nes­day in­cluded a de­mand that ei­ther the state or in­sur­ers pay for ul­tra­sound imag­ing that will be man­dated be­fore women can have an abor­tion — the re­sult of a con­tentious law passed this year. Sen. Janet D. How­ell, Fair­fax Demo­crat, is also push­ing for $250 mil­lion to help con­trol ris­ing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road as part of the con­struc­tion of the 23-mile Sil­ver Line project. The money would be in ad­di­tion to the $150 mil­lion the state has al­ready agreed to pro­vide in prin­ci­ple for the sec­ond leg of the project.

The Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee is sched­uled to meet Thurs­day at 11 a.m. in or­der to brief mem­bers who are not part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions, Chair­man Wal­ter A. Stosch said.

“It’s per­haps a lit­tle more de­lib­er­a­tive than some would like, but it’s im­por­tant that all mem­bers be briefed and up-to-date,” the Hen­rico Re­pub­li­can said. Party if a power-shar­ing agree­ment were not reached.

“I would sug­gest that we han­dled it much bet­ter than they in­tended to han­dle it in 1996, be­cause I came out early on and said, ‘Look, I think there are things I can vote on and there are things I can’t vote on,’ “he said. “I tried to be very fair in lay­ing that on the ta­ble. I could have taken a more ag­gres­sive po­si­tion re­ly­ing on Dick Howard’s opin­ion, as they in­tended to do, but I chose not to do that be­cause I just didn’t think that that opin­ion was right.”

Had he done so, there might be a bud­get in place by now — although there also could be pend­ing le­gal chal­lenges.

Se­nate Demo­cratic cau­cus Chair­man A. Don­ald Mceachin, Hen­rico Demo­crat, had filed the law­suit chal­leng­ing Mr. Bolling’s au­thor­ity to cast tie-break­ing votes on mat­ters of or­ga­ni­za­tion. A judge ruled in De­cem­ber that the mat­ter was moot un­til a vote was cast, but Mr. Mceachin still dropped it last month.

Mr. Mceachin said he didn’t want to get into a hy­po­thet­i­cal de­bate as to what might have hap­pened had Mr. Bolling tried to use his tie-break­ing vote in a more ag­gres­sive man­ner, such as in­sist­ing that he could cast the final vote to pass a bud­get.

“The fact is he didn’t,” Mr. Mceachin said. “I think it’s al­ways been fairly well set­tled that the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers elected means the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers elected.”

Democrats con­sis­tently have pushed for a power-shar­ing agree­ment, ar­gu­ing that a 20-20 split in the Se­nate should merit more eq­ui­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion on com­mit­tees. They also are us­ing their 20 votes to push for more money in the bud­get to off­set the higher cost of liv­ing for North­ern Virginia school per­son­nel and to help min­i­mize toll in­creases in North­ern Virginia and Hamp­ton Roads, among other items.

In ar­gu­ing for more eq­uity on com­mit­tees and fur­ther con­ces­sions in the two-year, $85 bil­lion spend­ing plan, Democrats also have re­sponded di­rectly to mat­ters on which Mr. Bolling has cast tie-break­ing votes. He cast a record-break­ing 28 votes this ses­sion. By com­par­i­son, he cast 19 such votes in his first six years on the job.

Mr. Bolling said there was no hand-wring­ing on his part on any of them.

“I think I’ve got a pretty strong core set of val­ues that I be­lieve in, and I eval­u­ate is­sues and rely on the prism of those val­ues that I be­lieve in,” he said. “I learned a long time ago in this busi­ness, you have to know what you be­lieve in and you have to be will­ing to stand up for it when it’s easy and when it’s not. If you don’t have that kind of a core foun­da­tion, this stuff will rip you apart.”


“I came out early on and said, ‘Look, I think there are things I can vote on and there are things I can’t vote on,’ ” said Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling about his decision not to be the tie-break­ing vote on the state bud­get.

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