Campaign finance fix ‘daunting,’ Gray says
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.