Mendelson will tackle campaign finance, education in D.C. Council

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Newly appointed D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday he will tackle campaign finance and education reforms after the legislative body’s recess from mid-July to mid-September.

Mr. Mendelson, a Democrat, will preside over his first legislative meeting as chairman on Tuesday. His colleagues voted him into the role after former chairman Kwame R. Brown resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud and a misdemeanor campaign finance violation related to his 2008 re-election bid for at-large member of the council.

“I promise you, we will be moving aggressively right after the recess,” Mr. Mendelson said at a pre-legislative press briefing on Monday, continuing a tradition carried out by prior chairmen as he settles into his role as chief lawmaker.

Mr. Mendelson said there is nothing wrong with the council taking its normal summer recess amid a transition of leadership and heavy legislative docket. The break, he said, is routine and allows staff to catch up on important work.

Mr. Mendelson said he expects to take up campaign finance reform in the latter part of the year.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray has said he is working with D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan to fashion a slate of reforms, but nothing has been formally proposed. The issue is considered a pressing one for the council, after FBI agents in March raided the home and offices of a prolific contributor to D.C. campaigns as part of an apparent probe into his network of donors.

Mr. Mendelson also said he will retain control of the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee of the Whole until the end of the year.

Responding to a reporter’s questions, he said he understood the perspective that he is holding onto the judiciary committee in case he is unsuccessful in his bid to keep the chairman position during a special election this November. However, he said another reorganization during this council period — changes were made last summer and in recent weeks — of the council would have a harmful effect on staff who are trying to build momentum toward legislative goals.

“Is it a great situation? No,” he said.

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