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A grainy video posted to Twitter last week shows a woman offering $5 in exchange for signatures on nominating petitions for Ward 2 candidate Jack Evans and At-Large Councilmember Robert White. Evans and a representative from White’s campaign say they have no idea who the woman is.
“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s something,” the woman can be heard telling people at the James Apartments, a DC Housing Authority building for seniors and disabled residents.
The woman, who LL has learned is Cathy Love, tells her audience that she’s been asked before, “Isn’t that bribery?”
“Uh, it’s called campaigning,” Love says in the video. “The only person I really didn’t do it for was when I campaigned for Marion Barry. Didn’t have to pay no money for nothin’. That was when we were all energized. It was a different ball game then.”
Love assured her audience that it is completely legal to accept money in exchange for signatures, and to LL’s surprise, the D.C. Board of Elections says she is right.
A BOE spokesperson points LL to a section of the law that says it is illegal to pay for signatures on initiatives, referendums, and recall petitions. It’s also illegal to pay people not to sign an initiative, referendum, or recall petition. The law is silent on nominating petitions.
One person in the room when Love made her pitch, who did not want LL to print their name, thought Love’s offer sounded fishy and began recording.
“There’s something wrong with paying people to sign petitions,” the person says. “I thought it was very disingenuous to pay people or have somebody else come out and say you’re going to give them money to sign. Especially for a vulnerable population because I don’t think the same would have been done in Georgetown.”
A look at Evans’ nominating petitions filed with the BOE last week reveals that Love hit up a few other public housing apartments serving seniors and disabled residents, including Judiciary House, Horizon House, and Claridge Towers.
Neither Evans, nor Daniel Moskowitz, a deputy campaign manager for White, have seen the video and say they don’t know who Love is.
Evans declined to talk about his signature gathering strategy. But Moskowitz writes in an email that White’s campaign paid signature gatherers between $1 and $3 per signature and used a combination of paid and volunteer gatherers.
Reached by phone this week, Love says that at first she was offering money for signatures “and then I realized I wasn’t supposed to do that,” she says. “So I didn’t do it. I got it all wrong. It wasn’t from Jack Evans or Robert White. It was someone who recruited me to do it. And they said I was wrong to do it. I haven’t talked to Jack Evans or Robert White.”
White is running unopposed in the Democratic primary to retain his citywide seat, but has still taken in about $272,000 in campaign contributions so far, according to his most recent finance report.
Evans gave up the Ward 2 seat he held for 29 years after an ethics scandal that pushed his colleagues to vote him out of office. He resigned before the Council could take a final vote and announced his candidacy 10 days later. He’s now facing seven opponents in the Democratic primary and plans to run in the June 16 special election to fill the seat for the rest of the year. It appears Evans will qualify for D.C.’s public campaign financing program and has taken in almost $10,000 from 200 District residents, according to his most recent financial report.