- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Do the "write" thing? Give us a break. Who came up with that hypocritical hype? How about simply "do the right thing" for a change? Of course, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams continues to demonstrate that he knows nothing of director Spike Lee's charge to act with some dignity and righteousness.
Teflon Tony's latest pathetic pitch to "my people" the ones he left behind and visibly can't stand to be around to "reach my goals" is beyond redemption. And it will take more than a pickup basketball game in the 'hood, a predictable politician's plea from the pulpit and a mea culpa letter sent to the city's Democrats to right the wretched wrongs that he has begat on the electoral process.
Indeed, what Mr. Williams and his minions did was "inexcusable," as conceded. So they should not be excused lightly.
"This is no longer about an election, this is about ethics," said voting-rights stalwart Lawrence Guyot. "This is a vote on the moral character of this city or its absence."
Someone should go to jail for such a serious offense against the franchise, and someone(s) may very well do so after the U.S. Attorney's Office reviews the campaign-fraud case forwarded to it by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. Their rules clearly state that individual violators should be fined up to $10,000 and/or get six months' imprisonment per offense for election-code violations and $1,000 in fines or 180 days in jail for making false statements.
Still, what would serve Mr. Williams as fitting punishment is for the Board of Elections and Ethics to continue doing the right thing when it meets tomorrow: Hit him where it hurts. Fine this unethical mayor the maximum penalty possible for the most massive voter fraud in this city's home-rule history.
Based on the board's rules, "any person" who violates any provision of the elections law may be assessed a civil penalty and each occurrence of a violation shall constitute a separate offense." The board certified that the mayor's campaign submitted 5,533 violations of the law; therefore, each violation is subject to a maximum fine of $200. That's approximately $1.1 million of the mayor's rapidly dwindling $1.4 million war chest. Most of that money, by the way, was donated by out-of-towners and big business before the mayor found his way back "to the community" he now needs for votes.
The self-serving Mr. Williams argues that he's been punished enough by the election board when it would not place him on the Democratic primary ballot, forcing him into a write-in campaign. That predicament, however, is completely of the mayor's own making.
As Betsy Werronen, chairman of the D.C. Republican Party rightly argues, "You have to earn a place on the ballot and he did not earn it."
Now we come to the penalty phase for the egregious crime of submitting petitions with certified fraudulent signatures. "If they slap a $75,000 fine, it's a joke and not a deterrent at all," Mrs. Werronen said.
Further, she said the fine should be imposed not only as a penalty, but also as "a deterrent so it will never happen again."
Gary Imhoff founder, with his wife, Dorothy Brizill, of D.C. Watch is also adamant that Mr. Williams be fined the maximum because the mayor did not qualify for the ballot, and the board's historic ruling in this historic case will set a precedent or "set a de facto cap" for any future violations.
"This is the greatest massive violation that we've had in the District ever, and it shouldn't be minimized," Mr. Imhoff said.
As for Mr. Williams, Mr. Imhoff said he shouldn't be rewarded "a volume discount" on his petition frauds. "In real life, it doesn't work that way. The more and greater [your offense], the more your fines and penalties," he said.
Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, concurs because he is trying to teach children values through positive role models.
"The fine should be proportional to the level of culpability and should send a strong message of playing by the rules," Mr. Lynch said. "I am dealing with children all the time and telling them to play fair and by the rules, and the mayor needs to understand that too."
Yes, but it's hard to teach real consequences to someone like Teflon Tony, who has never actually been held accountable politically or otherwise for his misconduct as long as he's been in the District.
With his popularity dwindling in all quadrants of the city, lots of folks are bemoaning the real prospect that Mr. Williams with the help of those who continue to prop him up for their own self-interest will get away with skating the rules and win re-election, albeit not so easily now. However, here's the real rub. No matter how high the fine the board imposes tomorrow, the money goes into the city's general fund to be used by guess who? Mayor Williams, in whatever fashion he chooses. Talk about irony.
Wouldn't it be better if that fine went directly to the voters this mayor dishonored by funding voter-education programs or literacy campaigns or to pay for the public relations push for D.C. voting rights?
"The fines should fit the crimes because they are unprecedented and they are revolutionary in their scope," Mr. Guyot said. "The fine, which is necessary and must be delivered in the name of justice, is not the final act necessary for complete punishment."
To that end, ultimately it will be left up to the District's voters to do the right thing.

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