D.C.

"Initiative 70" petition goes to D.C. Board of Elections

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From one controversy to trying to prevent future ones, there's a new push to end "pay-to-play" politics in the District.

More than 30,000 voters signed a petition to ban corporate contributions for political candidates. The signatures have been delivered to the D.C. Board of Elections.

Those who signed the petition want "Initiative 70" put on the November ballot, giving D.C. voters the chance to decide whether or not corporations can give money to local campaigns, constituent service and more.

Twenty-one states and the federal government already have bans in place.

Ward 8 activist Philip Pannell explained, "This is a grassroots effort with no money."

Dozens of people crowded outside the D.C. Board of Elections Office Monday, hoping to restore public trust in politics.

Bryan Weaver, who lives in Ward 1, said, "Four months ago, groups of activists from every part of the city got together, and we were trying to find a way to work on ethics and campaign financing reform that we thought had failed at the council."

Initiative 70 would end corporate contributions for public officials and candidates. Supporters say that would prevent buying government access and influence.

According to current District law, corporations can donate up to $500 for ward races each year, $1,000 for "at-large" races and $2,000 for mayoral races.

The first step to cutting off the cash flow requires gathering more than 23,000 supporters District-wide.

"We've turned in 30,000 signatures to make it onto the ballot for November," Weaver added.

Several volunteers with D.C. Public Trust say this is an important move to reform a city battered by scandal.

Over the past year, several political dramas have cast scrutiny over the District.

Just last month, former Council Chairman Kwame Brown resigned after pleading guilty to bank fraud, and now accusations of campaign finance fraud taint three of Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 associates.

"Let's put it bluntly. People here in the District of Columbia are sick and tired of seeing public elected officials playing tricks and trash with governmental and political cash," Pannell added.

Critics of Initiative 70 say it would drive corporations to donate money to political action committees instead of giving directly to candidates which is heavily monitored.

The Board of Elections will spend the next month making sure everyone who signed their name is a registered voter. I

If they meet their mark, the initiative will be on the ballot in November. However, voters don't have the final say, the D.C. Council could overturn the measure.

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