- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he disagrees with city election officials who contend he will have to return $1.4 million in campaign contributions if he cannot run as a Democrat.
Cicely E. Collier-Montgomery, director of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, and Kathy E. Williams, the department's staff attorney, told The Washington Times on Monday that the city code is clear: Campaign contributions given to a Democrat cannot be used in a non-Democratic Party campaign.
In an early morning interview with (WTTG) Fox 5, Mr. Williams downplayed the campaign finance officials' comments as a "preliminary judgment."
Mr. Williams has filed more than 10,000 signatures to place his name on the Democratic Party's Sept. 10 primary ballot, but the validity of several thousand of those names is in question. And if the mayor doesn't run as a Democrat, he can't use the $1.4 million, city officials say.
Ms. Williams, who is no relation of the mayor, said the official D.C. Code specifically addresses the dissemination of campaign funds when someone ceases to be a candidate.
Section 1-1107.02, titled "Use of surplus campaign funds," of the code says: "Within the limitations specified in this chapter, any surplus, residual or unexpended campaign funds received by or on behalf of an individual who seeks nomination for election, or election to office shall be contributed to a political party for political purposes, used to retire the proper debts of his or her political committee which received such funds, or returned to the donors …."
If the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rules that the mayor lacks the minimum 2,000 valid signatures, campaign finance would consider any and all campaign funds garnered by Mr. Williams as a Democrat as surplus funds, Ms. Williams said. That would leave him six months to exercise three options.
"If he is pulled off the ballot," she said, "and leaves the party to run as an independent, he can only donate the money to another party, use it to retire all debts of his political committee or return the money to the donors."
The mayor disagrees.
The position of the campaign is that the code does not apply "unless the mayor ceases to be a candidate, period," said Ann Walker Marchant, spokeswoman for Mr. Williams' campaign.
"If he runs as an independent, he is still a candidate," she said.
She said the mayor's supporters "remain confident that we have the required number of valid signatures."
Community activists Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff joined with Georgetown University law student Shaun Snyder, a Republican, to file a challenge to Mr. Williams' petitions two weeks ago.
The challenge cites "rampant" neglect for the board of elections' petition rules, forged petition signatures and forged signatures of petition circulators.
D.C. Taxicab Commissioner Sandra Seegars filed a separate challenge.
Mr. Williams' lawyers, Doug Patton of Holland and Knight and Vincent Mark Policy of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs, concede that at least 4,300 of the 10,240 signatures are invalid.
The board of elections held its preconference hearings on the petition challenges and rebuttal yesterday.
Ken McGee, general counsel for the board of elections, said the three-member, independent body would compare the signatures of petitioners and petition circulators with those appearing on voter registration cards using a "reasonable standard" without the use of a handwriting expert.
"The D.C. Registrar of Voters, Kathy Fairley, will give her initial determination on the validity of the petitions Wednesday," he said.
Mr. Williams' attorneys will then be able to argue their case before the board makes its final ruling.
The board must rule on the validity of the petitions by July 30.


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