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D.C. Democratic committee has $27,000 more in penalties than in funds

By nearly any measure, the District is one of the most Democratic jurisdictions in the nation. But if the D.C. Democratic Committee doesn't start raising money fast, it's going to go broke.

The Office of Campaign Finance recommended Wednesday that the local Democratic committee be fined $18,000 after it failed to report $170,000 in contributions it raised to pay for its activities at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The office also is ordering the party to refund about $30,000 in excess contributions.

But the party, which is in turmoil because of infighting, currently has only $21,000 in the bank, according to Dan Wedderburn, the party's treasurer.

Unlike some other Democratic mayors in other cities, party activists say Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) doesn't feel an obligation to make sure the local party is well funded - or stacked with his supporters.

And with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about 8 to 1 in the city, activists say it can be hard to raise money when there is rarely a competitive election between the two parties.

Adding to the woes, there has been an intense power struggle between party chair Anita Bonds and her critics for more than a year now.

The internal tension contrasts with the relatively smooth operation of the D.C.
Republican Committee, which plans to field a record number of council candidates this year. The D.C. Republican Committee -- which has 28,000 members in the city compared to the Democrats' 316,000 - has about $57,000 in two separate accounts, according to party officials.

Still, with Fenty sitting on about $3.3 million in campaign cash and several council members running unopposed in this year's primary, its hard to imagine local activists and Democratic leaders doing nothing while the D.C. Democratic Committee goes out of business.

--Tim Craig

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  April 8, 2010; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Democrats & Republicans , Tim Craig  
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