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Last week, the D.C. Council voted to allow residents to make a donation to political parties by checking a box on their income-tax forms. When Bill 11-20 was first introduced, the “check-off” was to apply to all political parties. But Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) amended the measure to include only “major” parties. Since all but one of the 13 councilmembers are Democrats, the amendment was a blatant “conflict of interest,” says ethics advocate Marie Drissel, who filed a complaint with the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF). “Councilmembers stand to gain the most from these check-offs,” she adds. (Councilmembers Jack Evans and Harry Thomas both invoked the weak financial standing of the Democratic Party as impetus to pass the legislation.) Peter Montgomery, chairman of Common Cause/D.C., explains that “challengers and independents already at a significant disadvantage would be further disadvantaged by having the government raise funds for [major] political parties.” Drissel also complained to OCF that four of the eight Democratic ward organizations failed to file financial reports required by law. “It’s disgraceful. We can’t even fund an animal shelter but we can take care of the Democratic Party, which can’t even teach its people to obey the law,” sighs Drissel.