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Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto did not violate campaign finance laws in connection with her short-lived use of a Logan Circle home as a campaign headquarters, the Office of Campaign Finance has found. OCF dismissed a complaint, filed by attorney Lauren Wolfe, alleging the Pinto campaign’s use of the home at 1300 Q St. NW counted as an excessive contribution.
OCF general counsel William SanFord determined that Pinto did not, in fact, use 1300 Q St. NW as a headquarters. She therefore had no obligation to report the cost of its use on her campaign finance reports. Candidates for ward seats cannot accept contributions exceeding $500.
Wolfe’s complaint, filed shortly after Pinto won the Democratic primary, included candidate questionnaires listing 1300 Q St. NW as Pinto’s campaign HQ as evidence of a violation. Her complaint also included invitations from Pinto to campaign events at 1300 Q St. NW and photos of campaign balloons hanging outside the house. At least some of the photos, which were posted social media accounts belonging to Pinto and her sister, appear to have been deleted.
In response, Pinto told OCF that she planned to lease the first floor of 1300 Q St. NW, then abandoned the idea by March 13 after the pandemic made in-person events unsafe. But her mother, Dale Pinto, had already signed a short-term lease, for $5,500 a month, on the property through June 30. Dale Pinto spent only one night at 1300 Q St. NW, according to Brooke Pinto’s statement to OCF, and during the term of the lease in May, her mother and sister hung balloons outside the house.
SanFord writes in his dismissal order that Dale Pinto’s lease and campaign balloon decorations at 1300 Q St. NW don’t establish the house as a campaign headquarters. SanFord points to emails from Pinto’s campaign canceling in-person events at the house as evidence that she never used the house as she originally intended.
“The [campaign] Committee does not have an obligation to report contributions it did not receive,” SanFord writes. “Therefore, absent any actual evidence that the property at 1300 Q Street, NW was utilized by the Committee as a campaign headquarters in some capacity, the complaint cannot be sustained.”
In a press release following OCF’s order, Pinto’s attorney, Joseph González writes that he is pleased with the outcome and disappointed that “this allegation has led anyone to believe that Councilmember Brooke Pinto behaved with anything other than the highest regard for ethics and honesty.”
Pinto’s lawyer also notes that the complaint led to “a significant unwarranted legal expense for the campaign.” Her campaign finance report for August shows an $8,899 expenditure to González’s firm.
In her own statement following OCF’s decision, Pinto looked to put the issue behind her.
“From the outset of my campaign, I have paid careful attention to ethics,” she writes. “Ethics have always been more important to me than politics. Our campaign plays by the rules, as the decision by OCF clearly indicates in the dismissal of the complaint.”
Wolfe tells LL that she intends to file an appeal but declined to elaborate.