Update, 2:15 p.m.: Some of Orange’s Council colleagues are divided on whether Orange’s new side job at the Chamber is appropriate. In an appearance this afternoon on WAMU’s The Politics Hour, at-large Councilmembers David Grosso and Elissa Silverman both complained that the position raises questions about what Orange can do in his remaining time on the Council.
“It’s a complete conflict of interest,” said Silverman, who wants an opinion on Orange’s job from the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson had a more laissez-faire approach to Orange’s moonlighting. Mendelson says he told Orange to clear any conflicts of interest with Council attorneys, but doesn’t have plans to try to take away Orange’s chairman position on the Council’s business committee.
“There’s what the law prohibits and what people don’t like,” Mendelson says.
Original post, 11:15 a.m.: Good news for lame duck at-large Councilmember Vincent Orange: he’s got a new second job. Bad news for District taxpayers: Orange’s new gig is as the president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, creating a stunning conflict of interest that’s remarkable even coming from one of the D.C. Council’s more notorious members.
Orange will take over as the D.C. Chamber’s president next month, according to the Washington Business Journal. But instead of resigning from the Council seat he lost to Robert White in June, Orange is staying on the Council until his term expires in January. For nearly five months, Orange will be paid by District taxpayers andby the city’s business community.
Orange can hold two jobs because of the long-standing loophole that allows councilmembers to have second jobs. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, for example, works on the side for a prominent law firm that lobbies councilmembers. The conflict of interest created by Orange’s job is even bigger: while Evans works with people who lobby the Council, Orange is becoming the head of an organization whose primary function is influencing the Council.
Orange declined a chance to comment. Even if he plans to abstain from bills related to the business community, though, hiring Orange gives that group a huge win in terms of Council influence. Orange chairs the Council’s committee on business affairs—is he just not going to run his committee for five months?
Meanwhile, Orange has been the prime mover behind the Council’s work-scheduling legislation, which has faced pushback from businesses. With Orange presumably abstaining on the legislation from here on out, does the already troubled legislation die? Someone more cynical than LL might notice that Orange withdrew the legislation from a full Council vote in June, a move that surely pleased the D.C. Chamber.
Before this, Orange was one of the Council’s most vocal advocates for banning councilmembers from holding second jobs (although he mostly brought it up as a way of derailing other reform bills). Maybe it’s fitting, then, that before leaving the Council Orange provides the District with the best argument for closing the loophole.