Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd
Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd blurred the line between his political office and his support for an ally’s campaign, a D.C. government investigation found.

The Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) recently slapped Todd with a $4,000 fine for spamming a list of constituent email addresses to promote Rhonda Henderson and solicit donations for her unsuccessful campaign for State Board of Education.

A spokesman for Todd writes in an email that the councilmember is reviewing OCF’s order and “looks forward to moving past this and remains focused on doing the important work of advocating for and serving the residents of Ward 4.”

Multiple residents filed complaints with the D.C. government alleging violations of local laws barring the use of government resources for political campaigns. A neighborhood commission in Todd’s home ward also voted to send a letter calling for an investigation.

In his response to the complaint, Todd tried to argue that email addresses obtained from constituents through his Council office are not government resources.

“[Todd] stated that he is unaware of any provision which would designate email addresses which originated from direct constituent contact with his Council office as government resources,” the OCF order says.

Even so, Todd explained that he has maintained a personal list of email addresses over the past 10 years from a variety of sources including “his campaigns, requests from friends, contacts, residents requesting updates and information, in-person interactions, and individuals who have contacted him through his website,” according to OCF’s order.

OCF’s General Counsel William O. Sanford didn’t buy Todd’s explanation, and in his order writes that Todd’s use of emails “significantly undermined the public trust in government.”

“Our position is he received these emails in his official capacity, and converted them for campaign purposes,” Sanford says. “We see that as a violation of the provision that prohibits using government resources for campaign purposes.”

The OCF order notes that recipients of Todd’s emails said they had only contacted him through his Council office or his constituent services office. The emails constituents received also included a disclaimer that said “you are receiving this email because you contacted Councilmember Todd in the past.”

Todd said the disclaimer does not indicate the email list was “developed by his Council office, it is simply a function of the service he uses to manage and contact his personal email list and it unfortunately misstates the purpose and origin of the email.”

OCF decided to cut the $4,000 fine in half if Todd attends ethics training within 60 days. This isn’t the first time Todd has been nailed violating campaign laws. In 2017, his campaign was fined $5,100 for failing to properly document $83,000 in deposits to his 2015 special election campaign fund.