Hey high-income readers, did you chafe this election season from the $2,000 maximum donation limit? Did creating multiple LLCs to help sidestep the donation cap cramp your style? Well, fear not, as you’ll soon be able to write a check as big as you want to Almost Mayor Vince Gray or Almost Chairman Kwame Brown.
The council approved emergency legislation today allowing Gray and Brown to cover the costs of a transition government (like wages and supplies) through private donations, rather than using public funds.
When your city is $175 million in the red at the start of the fiscal year, not spending $250,000 on a mayoral transition and $150,000 on a chairmanship transition (as the Examiner‘s Freeman Klopott reports were the previous costs) seems reasonable.
But we have campaign financing regulations for a reason (whether those are good reasons is a separate debate). And this emergency legislation just opened up a giant loophole that makes those regulations seem pointless. After all, if you wrote Gray a fat check, would you care whether it was for the campaign or a transition? No, you’d expect the same amount of access either way.
Office of Campaign Finance spokesman Wesley Williams said his office wouldn’t regulate or limit donations, nor would it receive reports on any money donated to a transition fund. (Williams said this issue has come up in the past and is currently looking for a copy of an old OCF opinion on the matter to share with LL.)
And do we want the very public work of planning for a new administration being underwritten by private interests who have money to spend on such things? Doesn’t that seem a tad unseemly?
Klopott’s reports that Gray was pretty tone deaf to skeptical reporters:
When asked about the lack of regulations monitoring the transition donations, Gray said they will be dealt with if they arise.
“You propose the questions that you think are problematic and we’ll address those,” Gray told reporters.