New Roadblocks For Petition To Ban Corporate Campaign Contributions In D.C.

New Roadblocks For Petition To Ban Corporate Campaign Contributions In D.C.

By: Patrick Madden // August 30, 2012,

The activists behind Initiative 70, which would ban corporate contributions in local D.C. elections, are still fighting to make November’s ballot, despite new hurdles involving the thousands of signatures they have gathered.

The D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust is challenging the D.C. Board of Election’s decision to throw out the initiative, because the group, according to the board, did not turn in enough valid signatures. The activists countered. They reviewed the petitions and found that they had easily met the 23,300 signature threshold.

That’s where things get complicated.

Bryan Weaver, one of the organizers behind the initiative, says that the copies of the signatures that the group was given by the board to review were in black and white. The board uses a complicated color-coded system with green and red check marks.

There are also still questions as to why the board struck certain signatures. Weaver himself found that his signature, along with that of other members of the group, were not included in the list.

Weaver says the group will be back in court next Thursday to find out if they still have a chance to be on November’s ballot.


Gray’s COS Marks One-Year Anniversary

Gray’s COS Marks One-Year Anniversary

Posted by Alan Suderman on Aug. 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm, Washington City Paper

Chris Murphy, the mayor’s chief of staff, is celebrating his one-year anniversary today. That’s something of an accomplishment in this town, as many of his predecessors haven’t been able to last nearly as long. LL wrote about the short shelf-life of top mayoral traffic cops last year after Murphy was appointed as part of an effort to reboot Vince Gray’s flagging administration.

Gray’s first chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, famously flamed out after three months after a string of embarrassing headlines involving high salaries, nepotism hires, and some dude named Sulaimon Brown. Murphy, a Harvard grad and former top official at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, was supposed to bring a certain degree of professionalism to the job.

So how’s he done? Murphy’s tenure hasn’t been marked by any embarrassing hiring or pay scandals, so that’s an obvious improvement. But as for fresh starts, that’s not happened either. If anything, the cloud over Gray has only gotten darker since, as federal authorities have been able to secure three guilty pleas from associates of the mayor who helped his allegedly super illegal 2010 campaign. Their investigation is ongoing. Murphy can’t help what the feds do, of course, but LL assumes he’s had a role in crafting Gray’s sometimes tone deaf response. Just this week, the mayor bizarrely held a news conference where he tried to present himself as good government guru on a mission to clean up the city’s broken campaign finance system.

LL’s asked Murphy for his thoughts on his one-year mark and will update as needed. Update: Murphy stays on message:

It’s been an honor to serve the mayor and the people of the District to help create jobs, reduce unemployment, grow the economy, put the city’s fiscal house in order, expand opportunity, improve city services, and get the homicide rate on track to be the lowest in 50 years — to name just a few of the accomplishments of the mayor and his administration.

Gray proposes limits on campaign donations to scuttle ‘pay-to-play’ politics

Gray proposes limits on campaign donations to scuttle ‘pay-to-play’ politics

By Tim Craig, Washington Post, Published: August 28

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray proposed new restrictions on campaign donations on Tuesday, along with additional reporting requirements, saying more rules are needed to scuttle the influence of lobbyists and contractors on District politics.

Outlining proposals he wants to be the centerpiece of the D.C. Council agenda when members return next month from summer recess, Gray (D) seeks to curb political donations from anyone with a city contract of $250,000 or more, prohibit lobbyists from bundling contributions, and ban corporations from donating through various linked entities.

Gray’s proposal, which has not been drafted into legislation, would also require that all campaign donations within 30 days of an election be disclosed within 24 hours.

“It’s a very high priority,” Gray said of his campaign finance proposals. “It’s one of the most important questions we face at this stage.”

But Gray, weighed down by a continuing federal investigation into his fundraising and campaign spending, has largely left the heavy lifting for the legislation to Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan. Earlier this year, as the federal probe into Gray’s campaign intensified, he tasked Nathan with putting together a series of reforms.

After consulting with staff members, advocates and ethics experts, Nathan said he drafted proposals that would address “even the appearance of corruption” or a “pay-to-play culture.”

“The mayor asked me to propose a bold, comprehensive and systematic shift in thinking in our campaign finance laws,” Nathan said. “The goal is to assure going forward our citizens will have full confidence in our elected officials.”

The proposal comes as a group of progressive activists struggles to convince the D.C. Board of Elections that they succeeded in forcing a November initiative that would ban corporations from donating to local campaigns.

The board ruled this month that the group, D.C. Public Trust, failed to turn in enough valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. The group filed a court challenge, contending that the board miscounted.

But the board defended its decision Tuesday, saying in a court filing the group did not understand the board’s tallying system. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Nathan is not backing a complete ban on corporate donations, arguing that such a policy could land the District in court.

Instead, Nathan said he crafted proposals he thinks will address the campaign finance controversies that have swirled around D.C. officials, including allegations that city contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson orchestrated straw donations to Gray and several council members.

Nathan also wants to require organizations to disclose the sources of all donations, as candidates are required to do in regular campaign finance reports.

But Nathan wants even more disclosure for candidates within 30 days of an election. Those contributions and expenditures would be uploaded on the office’s Web site for public review.

In another proposal that could reshape campaign fundraising in the District, the administration wants to restrict contributions from limited liability corporations. Under current rules, donations made by LLCs cannot be counted against contribution limits on their owners.

Nathan said the proposal would also prohibit registered lobbyists from soliciting or transmitting contributions from others, preventing them from “bundling” donations to favored elected officials.

And to curb the use of straw donations, Nathan recommended that money-order contributions of more than $25 be outlawed.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement that if approved, the District would have among the strongest campaign finance laws in the country.

But Gray’s proposals must clear the D.C. Council, where members will likely propose their own ideas for reforming campaign rules.

Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), chairwoman of the Government Reform Committee, said the council “will be moving” on the issue this fall but that she had not reviewed Gray’s proposals.

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

Boston Finds a Moving Buddy

Boston Finds a Moving Buddy


Getty Images

Adrian Gonzalez

If nothing else, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a friend that will help you move—and these are good friends to have. By now, most of us have discovered that helping a friend move is a grievous mistake, never as easy as promised, usually consuming the better part of a weekend, and always involving a moment in which you find yourself smushed into a narrow staircase, clutching a chest of drawers by the fingertips, wondering why a professional isn’t doing this, and cursing the day you befriended your alleged friend. Later, when other friends inquire about moving assistance, you concoct bogus excuses: niece birthdays, elective surgeries, the family dog’s graduation from Harvard Law. This is rude and terrible and makes us bad people. This is also preferable to helping a friend move.

But the Dodgers will help you move. They don’t care. They will help with the chest of drawers, the mattress, the couch, the end tables, the TV console, and rugs. They will happily take items you no longer need. Pogo stick? Sure, sure. What else you got? Singing fish without batteries? Hand it over. Sweet.

Los Angeles proved it this weekend, when they helped the Red Sox transport not just one headache, but a whole series of them, letting Boston unload four players and enough cash to make at least three crummy Schwarzenegger movies. By now you have heard the specifics: the Red Sox traded All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, injured outfielder Carl Crawford, and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects who will either become Hall of Famers or answers at pub trivia night. Nobody has a clue. This trade was about the money: more than a quarter billion dollars of contract obligations dumped upon a franchise with new, profligate ownership.

Red Sox fans are doing cartwheels, a good strategy, since they will need a hobby to amuse themselves in October, as their team will be windsurfing during the playoffs. But they didn’t make the playoffs last year, either, collapsing spectacularly, and through the first five months of 2012 they somehow got less likable, playing poorly and undermining their manager, Bobby Valentine, who hasn’t exactly been a cool blast of steadiness himself. They have had loads of injuries, sure, but this season had the whiff of something more personal and toxic, the kind of low from which a franchise might take years to recover.

Along come the Dodgers, wealthy, eager, hungry. They would take the $100-million-plus contracts of Gonzalez and Crawford, as well as Beckett, who seemed so miserable in his final years in Boston. L.A. would take the whole thing? The Red Sox must have felt like a homeowner walking down to the sidewalk with a cardboard box full of "According to Jim" DVDs and a FREE sign—only to have someone run up and offer $200,000 for the set.

Really? You want all of this?

These are good players, no doubt—Gonzalez remains one of the best hitters in the majors, Beckett is still only 32, and there’s always the chance that Crawford can recover from injury and reclaim his former, dynamic self. (I’ll leave the Nick Punto predictions to Nick Punto.) But the big three, acquired on the watch of the previous GM, Theo Epstein, appear to be on the downside. There was a real chance the Red Sox would have found themselves in the unfortunate position of watching once-great players age atop giant wheelbarrows of $100 bills.

Instead they are gone, someone else’s salvation and/or heartbreak. The Red Sox have done their best to not frame this maneuver as a culture shift, but it’s a little hard to believe they didn’t see an auxiliary, chemical benefit. They pulled the car over, booted everyone out of the back seat, and sped off.

Now the Red Sox are being hailed as geniuses. The deal is wildly popular in Boston, which was sick of the 2012 team, and Red Sox Nation is pledging patience. I like the deal, too, though I’m suspicious of this pledge. This is not the Boston I know, where the Long View is recognized less than Bucky Dent Appreciation Day. No doubt the Red Sox are a saner, less gloomy team. But can Boston tolerate two or three years of getting pummeled by the Yankees or finishing behind the Orioles? Maybe more? Are they ready to manage expectations?

Because Boston has moved to a different place. They could not have done it without helpful friends from the Dodgers. Good luck with all the shiny new players, Los Angeles. And the pogo stick.

A version of this article appeared August 28, 2012, on page D6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Boston Finds a Moving Buddy.

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Crucial time for council member Cheh as summer recess ends

Crucial time for council member Cheh as summer recess ends

By Tim Craig, Washington Post, Published: August 26

The day federal prosecutors said Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign benefited from illicit donations, D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh paced in her Forest Hills home, angered and shocked.

In a phone conversation minutes after the news that one of Gray’s associates had dispersed illegal contributions as part of a “shadow campaign,” Cheh told a close friend: “The government could fall because of this. All could be lost.”

Hyperbole or not, that July 9 phone call set off a day of soul-searching for the Ward 3 Democrat. Less than two years after she buoyantly backed Gray’s mayoral bid and the campaign of Kwame R. Brown, who resigned as council chairman and pleaded guilty to bank fraud, she called on the mayor to step down.

It was a stunning reversal for Cheh, who with the help of Gray and Brown, both Democrats, had reached the peak of her political sway on the D.C. Council, becoming second in command and presiding over a powerful committee.

Since joining the council in 2007, Cheh has carved out a reputation as one of the council’s most progressive members, with considerable influence over major pieces of legislation, including the overhaul of the District’s taxi service and tough new ­consumer-protection rules.

But Cheh has been forced to recalibrate her council role, a byproduct of her ties to Brown and Gray as well as whispers from some colleagues that her political star has dimmed. With the council returning from summer recess next month, this fall could be a crucial period as Cheh manages friendships and her image.

“She definitely had a tough year,” council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said. “She was very fond of Mayor Gray and the former chairman, and I think she believed in the best of both of them. . . . She has been disappointed professionally . . . and I think she has been personally wounded.”

In an interview, Cheh acknowledged that she has struggled over the investigations into the Gray and Brown campaigns but said that she remains upbeat about her future.

“In a lot of religions, it’s a sin to despair and you shouldn’t despair,” Cheh said. “You have an obligation to go forward and be positive, but I must say I have had moments of despair with these scandals . . . but I am not going to let it deflect from my work.”

Cheh initially stood by Gray, a political ally who took on lobbyists and business interests unnerved by some of her legislation. But as she weighed the allegations surrounding the shadow campaign and her personal relationship, Cheh joined Catania and council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) in seeking Gray’s resignation.

In a decision that may have ended their friendship, she conveyed the news to Gray via voice mail.

“It wasn’t going to be a case where the person doesn’t get back to you and you delay and delay and delay to attend to niceties,” Cheh recalls. “No, no. It was right now: Make a decision. And once I had gotten to that point, I was pretty keen to discharge it.”

Gray said he was so hurt and offended by Cheh’s message that he’s not sure whether their relationship can survive.

“It’s not something I can predict at this stage,” he said.

After Gray and Brown won in 2010, Cheh began the 2011 legislative session with a burst of swagger that many observers thought foreshadowed a future mayoral bid by her. Brown named her chairman pro tempore and gave her a newly created committee with jurisdiction over public works, transportation and the environment. Meanwhile, Gray ran interference when legislation she sponsored ran into opposition.

“Vince Gray was so good to Mary Cheh,” said one council member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “Every time she was about to drown, Vince saved her, so it was astonishing what she did to him.”

Now, Cheh, who lost her chairman pro tem position after Brown resigned, appears to face an uncertain relationship with some of her colleagues.

Last month, for instance, she found few allies when Uber, the popular car-sharing service, orchestrated a campaign against her plan to set minimum fares as part of a taxi industry overhaul.

A constitutional law professor at George Washington University, Cheh has excelled at crafting major pieces of legislation, including a cap on interest for payday loans, changing procurement law and reforming election law. Her healthy schools initiative has become a nationwide model for other school districts.

“This last session, most of the big bills that pushed through were mine,” said Cheh, exuding a confidence that defines her personality. “The stuff I put forward, often, recommends itself.”

Yet Cheh has had a few stumbles over the past 18 months, including struggling to contain outrage in Ward 3 over her initial support for a now-repealed tax on out-of-state bonds and a high-profile spat with conservatives over her bill requiring that pest-control companies use nonlethal force on small animals, excluding rats and mice.

And though Cheh describes herself as a gentle force on the council, some of her colleagues say she can be aggressive and arrogant. At times, they say, Cheh’s desire to enact proposals leads to bills that are rushed with limited feedback from council colleagues and advocates.

“She is passionate about things, and sometimes she will take the lead and, if something is right in her eyes, it’s right and she doesn’t seem to look for everyone’s okay,” said council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7). “Sometimes you want a bit more collaboration.”

Business leaders have similar concerns, saying they wish she was more receptive to dealmaking and outside input.

“I would like her to be open to other points of view,” said Barbara Lang, president and chief executive of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“She is very direct in how she approaches things, and I would love for her to be more open-minded,” Lang said.

Cheh, who is not up for reelection until 2014, counters that her constituents sent her to the council “to fix stuff or make it better.”

“We shouldn’t be wedded to something in the past if there are better ways than the past,” she said.

Despite her rocky year, activists and council members stress it would be a mistake to underestimate Cheh, either in the John A. Wilson Building or on the campaign trail.

With at least four council members mentioned as possible mayoral candidates, Cheh could emerge as a key mediator or swing vote as political rivalries surface.

“I hear all the time how some members have fallen out of favor or in trouble, and I always think that those rumors are greatly exaggerated,” said Phil Mendelson (D), who replaced Brown as council chairman. Mendelson added that he considers Cheh a valuable partner.

Susie Taylor, president of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association, said she hasn’t seen much evidence that Cheh has been weakened in Ward 3, despite chatter that she may face a challenger in 2014’s primary.

“People are like, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ with politicians, and I think as long as she is delivering for her Ward 3 constituents, I think that is what people will focus on and not who are their friends,” Taylor said.

As for whether Gray will be one those friends, Cheh said she hopes to ask him to separate their personal relationship from their professional one.

“We’ll see,” she said. “He’ll either understand or not.”

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Maryland, D.C. tap outside consultants to adopt changes in health care law

Maryland, D.C. tap outside consultants to adopt changes in health care law

By Catherine Ho, Washington Post, Published: August 19

The Affordable Care Act is proving to be a boon for professional services firms, with Maryland and the District awarding millions of dollars in contracts to health care consulting and actuarial firms to study and advise on ACA-related provisions, including creating state-run health insurance exchanges.

About 75 contracts have been awarded nationally in connection with various parts of the federal health care law, and between 40 and 45 of those are related to setting up health insurance exchanges, according to Herndon-based Deltek, which analyzes the contracting market.

The exchanges are envisioned to be an online marketplace, similar to Expedia, for health insurance, where consumers can figure out what policies they qualify for and comparison shop for private plans.

The law calls for states to operate exchanges by 2014, and state officials are turning to outside consultants to help them analyze and comply with the new requirement. Fourteen states, including Maryland and D.C., are establishing exchanges. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has yet to authorize the creation of the exchange and recently suggested he is reluctant to spend taxpayer money on doing so, in the event Mitt Romney is elected and attempts to repeal the health care law.

Maryland and D.C. have signed at least 12 contracts with consulting and actuarial firms, as well as a university, for work related to the Affordable Care Act, according to Deltek.

Contracts with states for consulting or planning are not hugely lucrative — they typically range from $200,000 to $1 million — but the companies securing those agreements stand to reap long-term gains as states embark on the years-long process of planning, building, implementing and later managing the exchanges down the road.

“There are countless opportunities for professional service firms in this effort, whether it is in the preliminary stages of insurance exchange implementation or the very end, when the system is operational,” said Amanda White, a Deltek research analyst. “When these systems are up and running, there will still be a need for these types of firms to do work in the states … it will be more for quality assurance.”

The vendors for Maryland and the District include:


Noridian Administrative Services, Curam, Connecture and CNSI jointly have a two-year, $51 million contract to design, develop and implement the exchange starting in 2014.

Wakely Consulting, a Boston-based firm, has a $180,000 contract to study the financing and risks involved in the exchange, and analytic support.

Mercer, the New York consulting giant, a $378,650 contract to assess potential changes in premiums in the individual and small group markets, to study the effects of merging the individual and small group markets, and to recommend steps the state could take to reduce consequences of reforms. Mercer has also completed work with the state on building the exchange.

Oliver Wyman, a New York-based actuarial firm, to recommend how to enhance the premium rate review process and provide information to consumers and policymakers.

Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, for a one-year, $400,000 contract to develop a financial model based on enrollment estimates that take into account Medicaid expansion, subsidized care through the exchange and employer-sponsored insurance through 2020.

Manatt Health Solutions, of Los Angeles, a $210,000 contract in 2011 to study patient navigator program and provide consumer assistance, and a $259,000 contract in 2012 for additional work on navigator program

Weber Shandwick of D.C., a $135,000 contract for market analysis.

Health Management Consultants of Columbia, a $32,000 contract for a call center study.

The District

Compass Solutions, a West Chester, Pa.-based consulting firm, for a one-year, $969,000 contract to provide consulting and technical assistance services.

Accenture, the management consulting firm, for a three-year, $800,000 contract for IT system development and design

Mercer, with Oliver Wyman Group, Alicia Smith & Associates and Cognosante, for a one-year, $1 million contract to research financial sustainability, program integration, technical infrastructure, administration and governance, legal and policy issues. Mercer also previously consulted on building the exchange.

District officials are in the process of approving an additional agreement with an actuarial firm and law firm to help review and potentially draft legislation to strengthen the District’s insurance laws to better protect consumers, said Mike Flagg, a spokesman for the District’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

Michael Brown should be booted from ballot, rival argues

Posted at 06:04 PM ET, 08/20/2012

Michael Brown should be booted from ballot, rival argues

By Mike DeBonis

A campaign rival says Brown didn’t gather enough legitimate signatures to make the ballot. (Bill O’Leary – The Washington Post) A D.C. Council candidate says incumbent Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) should be ruled ineligible to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot after his campaign scrutinized Brown’s nominating petitions.

David Grosso, an independent running against Brown, on Monday challenged about 2,100 of the nearly 4,700 signatures Brown submitted to the D.C. Board of Elections. If upheld by the board, that would leave Brown well short of the 3,000 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot.

Asher Corson, a spokesman for the Brown campaign, said he had not seen the specific challenges but said the campaign was not especially concerned.

“It’s not up to our opponents whether we qualify for the ballot; that is up to the Board of Elections,” he said. “We’re confident in our signatures and petitions, and Michael Brown will be on the ballot.”

Grosso said he and his campaign volunteers identified a number of concerns, including signatures from unregistered voters, signers listing addresses different from those in voter records, duplicate signatures, undated signatures and ineligible circulators.

“We’re just basically doing basic due diligence,” he said, adding that he’s confident that the challenges will be sustained and Brown will be booted from the ballot.

While it’s not uncommon for candidates to have their ballot petitions challenged, it’s somewhat rare for a candidate to personally challenge his or her competition. Most often, campaigns will have a surrogate engage in the nitty-gritty politicking of filing a challenge with elections officials.

Grosso said he wanted to “stand up in front of the campaign” rather than find a surrogate. “Our whole message has been about transparency,” he said. “I felt the responsibility to stand up and do it myself. It’s part of the campaign process.”

In the coming days, elections staff will review Grosso’s claims and report to board members on how many challenges can be confirmed. The board must make a final ruling on the challenges by Sept. 10.

By Mike DeBonis | 06:04 PM ET, 08/20/2012