Washington – Activists hoping to limit the influence of corporate money in D.C. politics have delivered 30,000 petitions to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
The petitions demand a ballot measure in November, Initiative 70, asking D.C. voters if they favor a ban on corporate contributions to candidates for D.C. mayor and city council.
Leading the effort, former D.C. Council candidate Bryan Weaver of Adams Morgan, who believes that corporate cash is corrupting D.C. politics.
“If you want to do business with the city you need to fill up the coffers of people who are running for office,” he said.
Three hundred volunteers helped collected the signatures. In a festive atmosphere, some of those volunteers and other supporters gathered outside the D.C. Board of Elections to deliver the box full of signed petitions.
“People want to see an end to public elected officials playing tricks and trash with governmental and political cash,” says Phil Pannell, president of the Ward 8’s Congress Heights Civic Association.
The Supreme Court, in the 2010 Citizens United case, ruled that government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections. But the activists reject any criticism that their measure would violate business owners’ free speech rights.
“We’ve had great support from the small business community,” Weaver says. “A lot of the folks in the small business community feel like they’ve been getting squeezed.”
The measure would not ban corporate cash to political action committees, just direct contributions to the D.C. candidates for mayor and city council.
If the petitions meet the legal requirements, the D.C. Board of Elections could decide as soon as August whether Initiative 70 will be on the Nov. 6 ballot in the District.