- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2012

Activists hoping to eliminate pay-to-play politics in the D.C. government dropped off 30,000 signatures at the D.C. Board of Elections on Monday in support of a ballot initiative that would ban direct corporate contributions to local political campaigns.

Red-shirted volunteers for Initiative 70 stood outside the elections board’s office at Judiciary Square to show off a crate filled with petition papers, the fruits of a multi-month effort to garner as many signatures as possible from registered D.C voters.

Volunteers needed to gather about 23,000 signatures by Monday for the initiative to be considered for the Nov. 6 ballot, when city residents will vote for the president and numerous city offices. It purposely exceeded that threshold, since some signatures might be thrown out during a review process by the elections board.

The board has 30 days to verify that the signatures were made by registered D.C. voters and comprise 5 percent of the city’s electorate, including 5 percent of voters in at least five of the city’s eight wards.

Volunteers with clipboards had fanned out across the District to collect signatures, even in the oppressive heat last weekend.

“One of the largest obstacles we’ve hit is people who have given up on D.C. politics,” organizer Bryan Weaver said.

Mr. Weaver said corporations’ ability to bundle contributions through subsidiary companies has given them an outsized degree of influence at city hall and has eroded the public’s trust in their local leaders.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is rolling out more nuanced campaign finance reforms with advice from the city’s attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan. Mr. Nathan recently told a council committee that Initiative 70 takes a “meat ax” approach to the issue.

“We have to save the patient by losing the leg,” Mr. Weaver said. “If members of the council want to come up with something that is more refined and maybe brings more honesty and transparency to the process, then fine, but we as citizens aren’t allowed to do that through an initiative.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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