City Paper is not for tourists
LL wrote on Friday about the controversy concerning an ad in the Current newspapers for Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans that featured a photo of the candidate with his arm around police Chief Cathy Lanier, raising questions about the propriety of using a city official for campaign purposes.
Yesterday, Dupont resident and Evans foe David Mallof, along with fellow activists Ronald Cocome, Elizabeth Elliott, and John Hanrahan, sent a letter to the Office of Campaign Finance requesting an investigation of a “blatant violation” by Evans’ campaign.
Rather than press federal Hatch Act concerns, Mallof & Co. are alleging misconduct by Evans in “misusing government resources” for campaign purposes. The ad, Mallof writes, “implies a clear endorsement by the Chief of Police Lanier, but nevertheless also was produced by Mr. Evans for campaign purposes on D.C. Government property in the Wilson Building, likely on government time (in daylight and with the chief in full uniform on duty), and with the full powers, ‘brand,’ and directly implied resources of the D.C. Council and MPD Office of the Chief of Police.”
That this campaign chose the Chief of Police for the advertisement, not the chief dog catcher, is profound. The improper use of the image of our top public safety official portends a possible witches’ brew of civic implications for D.C. and its integrity of governance. Your office finding such an ad is acceptable will almost certainly set into motion many subsequent and likely more dangerous situations in the future.
All four signers have connections to the campaign of Evans’ challenger, Cary Silverman. Mallof and Elliott were listed among Silverman’s endorsers in an press release earlier this month. Mallof has contributed the maximum $500 to Silverman’s bid; Cocome and Elliott have donated more modest amounts. Hanrahan’s wife, activist Debby Hanrahan, has donated to Silverman’s campaign and has is listed in the press release as an endorser.
UPDATE, 2:05 P.M.: Evans campaign chief Keith Carbone responds: “This is nothing but the Silverman campaign trying to cause a distraction because they can’t defend the fact that Cary Silverman is a lobbyist who has spent the last eight years advancing the Bush administration’s agenda from pharmaceuticals to tobacco to Tom DeLay’s cheeseburger bill to guns. While the Evans campaign is about the progress we are still making in Ward 2, I can’t help but wonder why a Bush Republican is trying to sneak onto the D.C. Council through a Democratic primary.”
Full letter after jump.
August 19, 2008
Ms. Kathy S. Williams, Esq. General Counsel Office of Campaign Finance D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics 2000 14th Street, NW, Suite 420 Washington, D.C. 20009 via e-mail and local courier
Dear Ms. Williams:
Please allow this letter to serve as a formal, time-critical complaint of blatant campaign misconduct by respondent Council Member Mr. Jack Evans in the ongoing Ward 2 primary election. We undersigned formal complainants send this complaint to you, since we understand the OCF Director is out of the office this week.
1. Complaint and Charge: Attached is an original of the entire Dupont Current issue on Wednesday, August 13, 2008. See the campaign advertisement on page 12. We have determined the very same full-page, color ad ran in all the Ward 2 Current newspaper editions that week. This includes the Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and Northwest editions, all covering well more than just Ward 2 in D.C. distribution and readership.
This ad is clearly applicable to 3 DCMR 3300. At its plain face, blatant violations occur regarding use of D.C. Government resources and personnel for campaign-related purposes, per 3 DCMR 3301.8, 3301.9, and 3301.10 at the very least.
The photograph in the advertisement implies a clear endorsement by the Chief of Police Lanier, but nevertheless also was produced by Mr. Evans for campaign purposes on D.C. Government property in the Wilson Building, likely on government time (in daylight and with the chief in full uniform on duty), and with the full powers, “brand,” and directly implied resources of the D.C. Council and MPD Office of the Chief of Police fully projected in the campaign ad targeted to the September 9th election, and entitled “Working Together for Ward 2.” As one final but pivotal point, we hope your office will properly interpret the term “resource.” The good name of the MPD and its brand image of civic trust are very hard to win and more than easy to tarnish. Any company would view its brand as a major resource and a financial asset. In this case, taking the image of the Chief of Police in uniform was an illicit and cleverly premeditated use of a precious and fragile government resource of the highest order — for a political campaign. That the photograph may have been taken on another day for another supposed or even more casual reason is of no matter. The campaign subsequently used the resource of that moment and the brand of MPD illicitly.
Citizens rely on your office as chartered both to interpret the law and regulations, and to be proactive in your enforcement duties in situations like this, not merely to be narrowly responsive to a lengthy string of legalistic arguments that in this case need not be offered beyond the plain provisions of the law cited above. Therefore, no further laying out of the case need be offered in our minds. The only slight clarification we would like to add is that even if the Chief of Police was unaware of the advertisement being run or the possible further use of the photo, Mr. Evans and his campaign nevertheless clearly used government time, the huge cloak and patina of her mission-critical Office of the Chief of Police, and the full projection of D.C. government authority and its resources, illegally.
2. Request for an Immediate, Timely Finding within 7 Calendar Days: We understand you are busy this election time of year and that technically your office has 90 days to reply. However, given the time-critical impact of illicit communications on swaying possible election results, we believe a full two weeks is required to “cure” or remedy the violation in the media and in follow-up letters within Ward 2. Therefore, we respectfully ask you to rule by close of business (COB), Monday August 25th, which is a two-week cure window.
3. Recourse if Your Office is Unable to Find on a Timely Basis: An appeal will be filed and a re-run election demanded if needed to remedy a late OCF finding, upon a subsequent formal request for reconsideration and/or appeal to the Board and/or the D.C. Court of Appeals.
4. Implications for Our Civic Integrity and Your Office’s Civic Stewardship: This matter is of grave importance because Council Members and the Chief set the pivotal example of legal and ethical conduct for thousands of other District civic servants. As an example, at its worst and block-level possible implication, no resident or small shopkeeper should have to worry about “toeing the line” with an ANC commissioner photographed with the beat patrolman or MPD District Commander in order to continue to receive police services. That this campaign chose the Chief of Police for the advertisement, not the chief dog catcher, is profound. The improper use of the image of our top public safety official portends a possible witches’ brew of civic implications for D.C. and its integrity of governance. Your office finding such an ad is acceptable will almost certainly set into motion many subsequent and likely more dangerous situations in the future.
We four undersigned complainants thank you for your consideration. Please contact David Mallof if you have any further questions. And again, we respectfully seek a response in writing from OCF by COB Monday, August 25, 2008.
David J. Mallof Elizabeth B. Elliott Ronald Cocome John D. Hanrahan
CC: Ms. Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery, Director OCF Hon. Mr. Vincent Gray, Chair of the D.C. Council Mr. Brian Flowers, Counsel of the D.C. Council Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, Internal Affairs Bureau, MPD