Former Councilmember David Catania‘s mayoral dreams have been kaput for three months, but the investigation into what happened to help foil his general election run is just wrapping up. Late last month, the District’s Office of Campaign Finance opted not to fine a group of anti-Catania activists who produced mysterious signs and T-shirts.
The fracas started less than a month before the general election, when anti-Catania posters appeared around Congress Heights. The signs, along with T-shirts worn by the activists, lacked the OCF-mandated credit line explaining who paid for them. Catania’s campaign said the illicit signs meant Democrats were “nervous” about Muriel Bowser’s chances, while Muriel Bowser‘s campaign said they didn’t have anything to do with them.
After a Post article eyed ex-offender activist Yango Sawyer as one of the people behind the suspicious signs, Catania supporter Marie Drissel filed a complaint with the campaign finance watchdog. Sawyer organized his efforts after the fact into an OCF-recognized group, “D.C. Citizens Against Catania.”
Despite making political materials without credit lines, OCF opted last month to let Sawyer off. After a hearing, the campaign watchdog decided to fine the group $350, but suspended the fine.
OCF also cleared D.C. Citizens Against Catania on coordinating with the Bowser campaign. At a hearing, Sawyer said the $2,250 spent on flyers and T-shirts came from his own funds.
Sawyer declined to comment to LL, while Debra G. Rowe, another respondent in the OCF complaint, didn’t return a request for comment.
Drissel says OCF “papered over” her concerns about the group. She’s surprised that OCF accepted Sawyer’s explanation that he didn’t know the campaign materials needed a credit line.
“They had to have known how to do it right, or they could have picked up the phone and called OCF, or they could have asked all kinds of people who know how you do it right now,” Drissel says.
Photo by Will Sommer