Who will you pick for DC Council at-large on April 23?

Question 7

We asked the candidates:

Below are a set of proposals for ethics reform which some have advocated in recent years. For each, would you vote for or against? Further, you can explain any position in more detail if you wish and offer any additional ethics measures you would advocate for.

  • Ban or limit outside employment
  • Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds
  • Ban corporate contributions to campaigns
  • Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person
  • Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC
  • Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Elissa Silverman responded...

When it comes to ethics reform, this election boils down to show and tell.

All candidates will tell you they are for ethics reform, but I can show you a track record of my commitment to reform and my leading by example.

Ban or Limit Outside Employment

I will vote to make the council a full-time job for all new members. I am currently on unpaid leave and running full-time for the council seat. I will resign from my job when I win and work as a full-time representative for the residents of the District. The D.C. Council is a state legislature that meets year-round; I think that requires full-time attention. Banning outside employment protects against not only potential conflicts of interest but also the appearance of any conflicts of interest that might distract a member or fuel resident cynicism.

Eliminate or Constrain Constituent Service Funds

I will vote to eliminate the current practice of constituent service funds being an opportunity to buy access to council members through private fundraising. Instead, I will vote for the creation of a council-wide fund that would be a budget line item. The use of the fund would be restricted to specific purposes, such as emergency rental assistance and burial assistance. This is a recommendation from an ethics task force put together by council member David Grosso, which I led.

Ban "Bundling" from Multiple Entities Controlled by Same Person

I will push to make into law Initiative 70, the grassroots effort to ban direct corporate contributions. I was a leader of this effort. The District has individual contribution limits, but the use of limited liability companies allows some individuals to circumvent the law. I think a ban on corporate contributions — already banned on the federal level and in almost half the states — is a simple way to reform the corrosive pay-to-play culture.

Ban Contributions by Contractors and/or Lobbyists Who Do Business With D.C.

I will vote to ban contributions from lobbyists who do business with D.C. and bidders for contracts with the city. A ban on such contributions guards against a pay-to-play political culture, in which contributions are given in return for help securing government business. This ban would also protect businesses that might feel pressure to give.

Forbid Free or Discounted Legal Services, Travel Gifts, Sports Tickets for Council Members

I will vote to ban council members from accepting free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, and free sports tickets. I do not need the council box to cheer on our winning Washington Nationals; I am part of a season ticket group in Section 205.

Part of our ethics woes stems from the council acting like an exclusive 13-member club, in which residents are largely left out of the decision-making process. Additional proposals I will push include using technology to make participation in our government easier and more accessible by making possible videotaped testimony or testimony via Skype. I will also support legislation enabling public financing of our local elections.

Matthew Frumin responded...

We cannot afford delay in this critical area.

I have worked for years to support emerging democracies around the globe. The mantra is clear. Confidence in a political system begets strength. The lack thereof is insidious.

On the Council, I will work to build confidence in the system through the example of the approach I take to tackling problems and by pressing to enact sensible ethics and campaign finance legislation.

On "pay-to-play" — corporate contributions, bundling and contributions by contractors and lobbyists — I will work to enact the comprehensive legislation put forward in 2012 based on Attorney General Nathan's draft. That legislation addresses limitations and disclosure related to corporate donations and bundling by corporate entities and lobbyists as well as strengthening enforcement. Experts at Public Citizen said that if enacted, the proposed pay-to-play reforms would be among the strongest in the nation.

Constituent service funds offer a second field on which potentially to pay to play. They should either be banned or their uses limited to meet critical community needs (no more doling out of sports tickets). And, donations should be limited and both donations and expenditures subject to full transparency disclosures.

On gifts, we must strike a balance to avoid excessive, undisclosed generosity intended to buy influence without unduly impeding common gifts between family members and friends. I would favor disclosure requirements for gifts over $75 or gifts from related persons or entities that total over $75 in a year.

On outside employment, I would support legislation to make the Council a full-time body and prohibit outside employment. Until such legislation is enacted, I support strict enforcement of prohibitions on any outside employment that could create a conflict of interest on a matter before the Council.

In our City and across our nation, we grapple with the challenge of ensuring that the voices of individuals as opposed to the dollars of special interests dominate our political process. Trying to keep money out of politics, however, is unlikely to be the most effective method to do that. Money will find its way into politics. Unfortunately, the reaction to campaign finance reforms on the national level has made that amply clear.

Given that, a more promising approach would be to move to a public financing model along the lines proposed by Councilmembers Grosso and McDuffie. Such an approach would not bar donations, but would create a framework through which candidates who received only lower dollar donations, and could win support from a broad base of such local donors, could be insured the ability to project their message and compete.

We should move promptly to enact laws based on Attorney General Nathan and Councilmembers Grosso and McDuffie's proposals. We would then lead the nation in terms of laws on the books on these critical issues. Our challenge then, as it has been recently, will be to elect leaders who will adhere to those laws and strictly enforce the laws when they do not.

We can and should get this done.

Patrick Mara responded...

Ban or limit outside employment

I will be a full-time Councilmember. I support a ban on all outside employment, with exceptions for adjunct professorships and other temporary, part-time, limited-pay positions that benefit the local community.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

Constituent service funds are unchecked slush funds. I support their elimination.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns [and]

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person

I support public financing of campaigns for D.C. Council, Mayor and Attorney General.

This question ignores the reality of the Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. The simple fact is that corporations can spend on campaigns via PACs and through other direct or indirect means. In light of Citizens United, no local or state system can completely eliminate the influence of corporate money. A discussion that does not include that reality is naive.

The best way to change the system is by electing individuals with integrity. Furthermore, if elected, I will introduce legislation based on models such as the one in New York City that encourages candidates to participate in a publicly funded campaign finance program. The NYC model arose after years of corruption.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

Under the First Amendment, it is not lawful to restrict individual lobbyists from making a personal contribution to a campaign.

The best way to change the system is by electing individuals with integrity. Furthermore, if elected, I will introduce legislation based on models such as the one in New York City that encourages candidates to participate in a publicly funded campaign finance program. The NYC model arose after years of corruption.

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for Councilmembers

I opposed free or discounted legal services for Council members. I also support a ban on travel gifts, sports tickets and meals to Council members. If there are exceptions — such as a free meal at a charity banquet — there must be full disclosure.

John Settles responded...

Ban or limit outside employment

A wise man once said: "With great power comes great responsibility." I believe that the council position should be a full time position with a salary that is competitive with the private sector to attract the cities best and brightest. Even though we elect 13 individuals to oversee a Multi-Billion dollar enterprise it is a pay cut compared to lawyers, doctors, corporate executives etc. In the interim I do believe that outside employment should not be allowed with firms that do business with the city.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

I think the constituent service funds should have restricted uses, sponsoring informational/community building sessions in respective communities, financial assistance to individuals in emergency situations, supporting community events, and other important functions. I believe that transparency is critical, I would place the expenditures on my council website.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns

I actually would like to see publicly funded campaigns to level the playing field, and make it more about the individual and issues, versus money and influence.

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person.

I would support this.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

I support this. I would support any bill that would allow local candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

I support this.

Perry Redd responded...

Ban or limit outside employment

I am for a ban on any outside employment once a resident is elected to the Council. Outside influence is possible, thus corrupting and the job pays more than a living wage to sustain one's standard of living in the District.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

I am for constituent service funds as a mechanism to aid a ps constituents. I am a strong advocate for oversight; my plan for real-time transparent reporting via Open Source software components will bring "sunshine" to the practice

councilperson

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns

The Redd4Council campaign already committed to refusing ALL corporate donations from day one, as that is a guiding principle of the DC Statehood Green Party. Political campaign should be an affair of and for the people...and no, I don't believe that "corporations are people, my friend!"

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person

I am against any one entity using "bundling" as a means to influence the electoral process. This is an act of deception to the nth degree and should be banned for democracy's sake.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

I am unapologetically against contributions by entities that do business with city because of it's corrupting power to cause council members to "pay up"; I am totally against monetarily induced quid pro quo

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

I am for a full and complete ban for the types of "gifts" and/or perks listed above. Any tool that can used to influence and/or compromise the vote or act of a councilperson is unacceptable.

Any of the above-listed mechanisms that could be used to leverage a councilperson's vote should be banned. We must reform of ethical code through of legislative powers and abstain from any act that would resemble impropriety.

Paul Zukerberg responded...

Ban or limit outside employment

Yes. Maybe at one time the job of councilmember was a part-time position. But now it clearly is a full-time job. The specter of councilmembers employed simultaneously as lobbyists for companies which transact business with the District disqualifies them from public office, in my opinion.

Paul Zukerberg is the only candidate running on a platform which is actually contrary to his own personal financial interests. Paul is a criminal defense attorney, who for 27 years has represented people charged with possession of marijuana. If his plan to decriminalize possession becomes law, his marijuana defense practice will disappear. s not in this race for the money. He's in it to do what's right.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

Yes. Nothing but slush funds.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns

Yes. Corporate contributions distort the political process. Paul has not accepted a single corporate contribution. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, no corporation has offered to contribute to his campaign either.

It is interesting that the candidates who most vocally tout their stand against corporate contributions are the ones least likely to receive them.

Paul is also against giving public money to finance private political campaigns, in contrast to every other candidate has supported. Can you imagine the public having to match the private campaign contributions of Michael ("I lost my $113,000") Brown, or Kwame ("my campaign is a slush fund") Brown. Does Matt ("Mitt") Frumin really need another $84,000 of public money to get his message out?

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person

Of course. LLCs and other entities are just fancy ways to get around the campaign contribution limits.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

Duh. Sounds like bribery to me.

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

Paul does not accept discounted legal services (full disclosure — he's a lawyer himself) He makes his own travel plans, and pays his own way.

He hates skyboxes (full disclosure — you can't see the game). He thinks that the Council's skyboxes at Nationals Park and Verizon Center should be rented or sold. Full disclosure — the best place to see a baseball game is in the outfield cheap seats. Best people. Best view. Enjoy.

Michael Brown responded...

I will continue to be supportive of ethics reform , I voted for the most sweeping ethics reform bill/now law in the city's history. But that was just a first step, campaign finance reform must also happen. If we are truly committed to leveling the playing field , controlling or taking corporate dollars out of the system then pursuing my (for DC) idea of "public financing" of our elections.

Outside employment should not be banned, the issue is disclosure and transparency.

Constituent services fund is an important tool to help residents that need it. That's how I have always used it and will continue to if elected. Feel free to visit: www.michaelbrown2012 for more information.