Fighting Corporate Domination of District Elections

Public Citizen released a report on June 9, 2016 investigating the donations made to candidates running for office in Washington D.C.  The report, “District Development,” demonstrates that corporate interests are dominating this year’s election cycle, specifically interests in the real estate and construction sectors. 

Donations made up 40% of the District’s total contributions by sector.  When corporations in the legal and consulting sectors are included, the report finds that businesses in these areas are responsible for 57% of total contributions by sector in the current District election.

The District Council approves multi-year contracts and contracts over one million dollars, which helps to explain why candidates are receiving large donations from businesses with contracting interests.

The report shows that during the current District election, 75% of the candidate’s total fundraising came from people writing checks for the maximum allowed amount - $500 for Ward-level candidates and $1,000 for at-large candidates.  These maximum donations are far more than what the typical District resident can afford, especially for the one in five D.C. residents that are living below the poverty line.

In addition to raising awareness about the incumbent’s heavy reliance on wealthy donors and corporate interests, Public Citizen hopes to gain increasing support in the District for the Citizens Fair Election Program Amendment Act (B21-0509). This program would match $5 for every $1 donated to candidates that agree to accept contributions no greater than $100.  If passed, it would incentivize candidates to spend more time with the average District resident, as opposed to wealthy corporations.  Washington D.C. would join New York, Maine, New Mexico and Connecticut in implementing a fair elections system if the Act is adopted.

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