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Fundraising Audit Finds Problems for D.C. Democrats

In a preliminary audit, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has found numerous suspected campaign finance violations related to the D.C. Democratic State Committee's spending at last year's Democratic National Convention in Denver.

In the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the board's Office of Campaign Finance states that the committee appears to have failed to accurately report tens of thousands of dollars in donations. At issue is whether a local party and politicians can raise money for party-building activities at a national convention without having to abide by D.C. campaign finance laws, even if local politicians are involved in raising the money.

"Our audit revealed that the committee failed to report approximately 34 deposits/receipts/contributions totaling $158,245," the report states. "The audit staff was made aware of these deposits/receipts/contributions through the review of the copies of the committee bank statements."

According to the preliminary report, which local party officials are contesting, elections officials also raised concerns about whether the committee failed to abide by the city's $5,000 limit on campaign donations to an individual committee.

Both Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), as well as several development companies, appear to have written $10,000 checks last year to help finance the party's activities at the convention. In all, the committee might have to return $37,000 in "excess" donations, according to the audit.

Anita Bonds, chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, cautioned that the findings were preliminary. She said the committee would be providing additional information to the Office of Campaign Finance in coming days justifying their recordkeeping.

Furthermore, Bonds said, the committee does not believe that the city elections board has jurisdiction over the party's convention account.

She said the money raised for the party's convention activities "was a separate entity from the D.C. Democratic committee" and is not subject to city campaign finance laws. Bonds said that the money raised, which helped put on receptions and other visibility efforts at the convention, was not spent on campaigns in the District.

"It was a separate committee that was organized outside their jurisdiction," Bonds said. This was money purely for the convention."

The audit appears to suggest that several D.C. Council members played an active role in soliciting donations for the committee. In documents contained in the audit's appendix, several donations are directly tied to council members.

The Comcast Financial Agency Corporation's $10,000 contribution, for example, is designated as being "for" Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). The Cable Television PAC's $5,000 donation is designated for council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) and Verizon's $5,000 is listed as being for Evans. The law firm of Squire Sanders' $10,000 donation was designated to council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

-- Tim Craig

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  September 1, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  At the Convention , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig  
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