Initiative 70 Seeks to Change Elections Playing Field

Barrington M.Salmon | 8/8/2012, 11:18 a.m.

At issue, is not the fact that Thompson and others made the contributions, but that some may have illegally donated money to be converted to money orders, using money orders with fictitious names or having someone else sign them.

Both Weaver and Pannell said they are confident the initiative will make it on the ballot and Pannell said it will send a message to elected officials that politics should not be tied to big money and that the first order of business for every public servant is to serve the public first.

The move to bring the initiative to fruition comes against a backdrop of a city awash in scandal. For well over a year, legislators in the District from the mayor on down have been mired in a series of scandals, ethical lapses, theft and other questionable behavior.

Former Council Member Harry L. Thomas, Jr., and Former Council Chair Kwame Brown were forced to resign, Thomas for stealing $353,000 of public funds and Brown after pleading guilty to bank fraud and facing accusations of campaign finance fraud. In addition, two of Gray's campaign aides and a close friend have pled guilty to charges related to the 2010 campaign. The mayor has so far resisted calls for him to step down.

Weaver said good legislation has come from a couple council members but the rest have chosen not to support it.

"It's been mostly lip service," he said. "But old-time activists, people frustrated by D.C. politics, and new hipster white kids with similar passions and problems with the District have formed a coalition."

Weaver and Pannell expressed confidence in the initiative's passage.

"People in the District of Columbia are sick and tired of the tricks played with political cash," Pannell said. "I think Initiative 70 will pass. We got a lot of practical and universal acclaim in Ward 8. Residents have been excited."