This special edition of the Politics Hour combined local and national politics live from Slim's Diner in Petworth, Northwest D.C.
The “Occupy D.C.” movement edges closer to confrontation with the Park Police. Maryland may be pushing people out along the planned route for the Purple Line. And Virginia’s governor stays in motion, campaigning in Florida for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- David Englin Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-45th District)
- Sylvia Brown Community activist and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, ANC 7c04 (Deanwood); @ANC7c04
- Bryan Weaver Former Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large, Ward 1)
- Patrick Madden Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Politics Hour Extra
Kojo, Tom Sherwood, and WAMU 88.5’s Patrick Madden talk about former WTOP radio host Mark Plotkin’s career upon his departure from the station:
The panelists talk about current campaign finance laws and D.C. politics:
Measuring the Influence of Corporate Money in D.C. Elections
On last Friday’s Politics Hour, D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser said there was no direct relationship between fundraising and electoral outcomes in D.C. Below, we compared the vote and fundraising totals in 12 competitive D.C. races (the 2011 Special Election, the 2010 Democratic Primary, and the 2008 Democratic and Republican Primary). In 10 of the 12 races, the candidate with the most money prevailed.
We also looked at donations from “corporate” and “business” sources. In most cases, corporate dollars flowed disproportionately to incumbents.
Special Election, April 26, 2011
|Candidate||Race||Party||% of Vote||Total $ Raised||$ Raised from Corp. /Biz Sources||% Raised from Corp. Biz. Sources|
|* Vincent Orange||Council At-Large||Dem||28.92%||$302,760.00||$95,685.00||31.60%|
|Patrick Mara||Council At-Large||Rep||25.23%||$101,054.00||$13,925.00||13.78%|
|Sekou Biddle||Council At-Large||Dem||19.96%||$198,871.00||$54,000.00||27.15%|
|Bryan Weaver||Council At-Large||Dem||12.92%||$51,427.60||$2,050.00||3.99%|
|Joshua Lopez||Council At-Large||Dem||7.12%||$35,599.00||$10,592.00||29.75%|
|Tom Brown||Council At-Large||Dem||2.21%||$12,827.68||$2,250.00||17.54%|
|Dorothy Douglas||Council At-Large||Dem||1.68%||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Alan Page||Council At-Large||Grn||1.30%||$2,522.68||$0.00||0.00%|
|Arkan Haile||Council At-Large||0.29%||$12,230.00||$2,000.00||16.35%|
- Data from D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics and D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Reflects contributions to Campaign Committees between 11/02/2010 – 04/26/2011
Democratic Primary, September 14, 2010
|Candidate||Race||Party||% of Vote||Total $ Raised||$ Raised from Corp. /Biz Sources||% Raised from Corp. / Biz. Sources|
|* Vincent C. Gray||Mayor||Dem||54.27%||$1,948,607.42||$511,859.43||26.27%|
|Adrian M. Fenty||Mayor||Dem||44.47%||$4,920,406.86||$1,723,790.00||35.03%|
|Ernest E. Johnson||Mayor||Dem||0.24%||$1,005.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|* Kwame R. Brown||Council Chair||Dem||55.18%||$626,157.21||$326,987.00||52.22%|
|Vincent Orange||Council Chair||Dem||38.57%||$275,128.00||109725||39.88%|
|Dorothy Douglas||Council Chair||Dem||5.59%||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|* Phil Mendelson||Council At-Large||Dem||62.56%||$275,450.45||$90,063.45||32.70%|
|Michael Brown||Council At-Large||Dem||28.25%||$10,673.45||$1,000.00||9.37%|
|Clark Ray||Council At-Large||Dem||8.67%||$133,001.98||$14,416.98||10.84%|
|* Jim Graham||Council Ward 1||Dem||56.88%||$320,139.90||$155,344.50||48.52%|
|Jeff Smith||Council Ward 1||Dem||21.44%||$57,083.28||$12,850.00||22.51%|
|Bryan Weaver||Council Ward 1||Dem||21.41%||$76,935.00||$10,040.00||13.05%|
|* Harry Tommy Thomas Jr.||Council Ward 5||Dem||61.67%||$227,693.24||$92,200.00||40.49%|
|Delano Hunter||Council Ward 5||Dem||19.14%||$36,048.74||$6,850.00||19.00%|
|Kenyan McDuffie||Council Ward 5||Dem||14.80%||$57,378.85||$5,045.00||8.79%|
|Tracey D. Turner||Council Ward 5||Dem||4.13%||$6,645.05||$500.00||7.52%|
|* Tommy Wells||Council Ward 6||Dem||75.10%||$194,048.45||$59,172.26||30.49%|
|Kelvin Robinson||Council Ward 6||Dem||24.44%||$127,455.14||$21,300.00||16.71%|
- Data from D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics and D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Reflects contributions to Campaign Committees between 11/04/2008 – 09/14/2010
Democratic / GOP Primary, September 09, 2008
|Candidate||Race||Party||% of Vote||$ Raised (Total)||$ Raised (Corporate/Business)||% Raised from Corporate / Biz Donors|
|* Jack Evans||Council Ward 2||Dem||64.40%||$457,388.20||$124,361.04||27.19%|
|Cary Silverman||Council Ward 2||Dem||35.31%||$40,638.64||$2,361.41||5.81%|
|* Muriel Bowser||Council Ward 4||Dem||74.85%||$418,043.17||$149,657.00||35.80%|
|Baruti Jahi||Council Ward 4||Dem||18.89%||$12,190.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|Paul E. Montague||Council Ward 4||Dem||3.17%||$0.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|Malik F. Mendenhall-Johnson||Council Ward 4||Dem||2.48%||$25.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|* Yvette M. Alexander||Council Ward 7||Dem||66.28%||$162,530.08||$71,000.00||43.68%|
|Robing Hammond Marlin||Council Ward 7||Dem||22.74%||$7,436.00||$1,500.00||20.17%|
|Villareal “VJ” Johnson||Council Ward 7||Dem||7.43%||$8,234.00||$705.00||8.56%|
|John Campbell||Council Ward 7||Dem||3.25%||$0.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|* Marion Barry||Council Ward 8||Dem||77.45%||$254,105.00||$111,630.00||43.93%|
|Charles Wilson||Council Ward 8||Dem||11.05%||$6,455.00||$350.00||5.42%|
|S.S.’ Sandra Seegers||Council Ward 8||Dem||8.85%||$15,362.00||$7,000.00||45.57%|
|Howard Brown||Council Ward 8||Dem||1.19%||$0.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|Braxton-Jones||Council Ward 8||Dem||0.55%||$0.00||$0.00||0.00%|
|* Patrick Mara||Council At-Large||Rep||58.74%||$121,840.34||$31,865.00||26.15%|
|Carol Schwartz||Council At-Large||Rep||40.79%||$133,507.00||$35,730.00||26.76%|
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Hi, Tom, how are you?
MR. TOM SHERWOODHey. Good. It's Friday.
NNAMDIWe also have a resident slash guest analyst today because Patrick Madden is a reporter for WAMU 88.5. He joins us in studio as our additional analyst today. Patrick Madden, welcome.
MR. PATRICK MADDENGood afternoon.
SHERWOODNot that we need any help.
NNAMDIWe don't need any help, but Patrick is always good to have around.
NNAMDIOn this broadcast, we often refer to another radio show that nobody listens to because, well, we didn't want to give that show credit for anything since it was our rival, albeit a friendly one. Well, today, nobody listened to that show. Nobody could because it didn't air. WTOP radio, where it did air, parted company with host Mark Plotkin yesterday, which I consider a loss both for that station and for Washington.
NNAMDIBut it's probably not over for Mark Plotkin. He invented himself as a political candidate, reinvented himself as a radio personality. And we anxiously await his next self-reinvention. Suffice it to say that we enjoyed the competition. I continue to alternately enjoy and tolerate his company, and colleagues like Tom Sherwood and Patrick Madden get Mark Plotkin even when he's not speaking to them. Tom Sherwood, what is there to get about Mark Plotkin?
SHERWOODWell, you know, if the people in the city had as much passion as Mark has, we would be a better place. There might be more disruption...
SHERWOOD...but we would be a better place. You know, I'm one of the people Mark stops speaking to when he thinks I offended him.
NNAMDIWait, I have to interrupt. Ten years ago...
SHERWOODNo. It wasn't 10 years. That was with Harry Jaffe.
NNAMDITwelve years. Twelve years.
SHERWOODFifteen years ago.
NNAMDINo, no, 12 years ago when this station had a 10th anniversary function for the aforementioned Mark Plotkin...
SHERWOODI was a guest speaker.
NNAMDI...Tom Sherwood spoke at that function, and he said, I quote, "Mark Plotkin has stopped speaking to more people than I have ever met in my life."
NNAMDINow, he's on the list.
SHERWOODThat's right. I'm on the list because I embarrassed him at a bar association luncheon when he started telling stories about Tip O'Neill. And I looked out in the audience, and I saw no recognition at all of who Tip O'Neill is. But in any event, I know I like Mark. I've -- he just doesn't talk to me. It's part of his personality. As you say in The Washington Post, Kojo, it's part of the package.
SHERWOODHe's passionate. Unfortunately, he got to be pretty aggressive in the way he would curse and scream at people, both in the newsroom and all those places. And I don't know why TOP did -- I don't know the precipitating event that caused it. I do know that TOP is ramping up to fight back this other news station that's on the air now.
NNAMDIThe CBS station that's coming, yes.
SHERWOODSo I don't know. I feel sad for Mark. I hope he does well and -- but maybe now he could be a guest on this show.
NNAMDIAnd Patrick Madden is one of the younger reporters entering into the reporting pool covering the District of Columbia. Apparently, you have not yet done enough to annoy Mark Plotkin.
MADDENNo. I still...
MADDENNo. I love talking to Mark. I once -- just a couple of weeks ago, you know, I drove back from an event in Ward 8 with him, and he knows more about the history of voting rights in this town. And he was telling me all this stuff from the '70 -- you know, the '80s and on, and it was just -- you know, it's a real loss 'cause he really -- especially at these mayoral press conferences, you know, it sort of -- it can get annoying to us reporters who want to ask other questions, but he really keeps public officials in this town honest when it comes to these issues.
NNAMDIAnd an encyclopedic memory for anything that happened before 1965. But, Tom Sherwood, is this the end, or is the end near for Occupy D.C.? It would appear that the Park Service has decided that people can no longer be involved in camping, if you will. They can exercise their constitutional rights to protest and demonstrate but no sleeping.
SHERWOODWell, the Park Service for many months now has been pretty accommodating with the folks who are protesting both at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. But, you know, the last -- I can't remember what day it was. This -- early this week, they got called up to Capitol Hill where Congressman Issa and some other members of Congress said, basically, if I may so, what the hell are you doing?
SHERWOODYou're allowing these people essentially to camp out there. It's against the federal rules to camp on park space. So just moments ago, the Park Service announced that it is passing out a document to everyone in these parks, these two parks, that you cannot camp. You cannot appear to be camping. You cannot sleep. You can't appear to be sleeping. If you have a structure of any type to protect yourself from the weather, there must be one open side so that they can see inside.
SHERWOODAnd so they're going to start enforcing the rules on January the 30th, which I think is next Tuesday. So I don't know what this is going to mean. One of the fears and one of the reasons there's been some tolerance is that if we do take a heavy hand, like other cities, Oakland, Atlanta, some other places, that all you'll do is invite every activist from Philadelphia, New York and other places to come to the nation's capital to defend these lowly, you know, small bands of people. So I don't know what's going to happen, but it sounds like Tuesday is going to be quite a day.
NNAMDIBut Patrick Madden has been living in McPherson Square. Where does he now return to for...
MADDENI need a home now.
NNAMDI...for a place of residence?
SHERWOODWell, you know, he -- at -- he did get a haircut.
SHERWOODSo his once annual haircut...
SHERWOOD...or whatever it is.
MADDENWell, I was going to bring in the book jacket from "Dream City" to show everyone when Tom had a great mustache back in the day.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
SHERWOODYou know, that -- you know, I've shown that to people, and they don't even -- I say who is that?
SHERWOODHe looks familiar. And they go, I don't know. Who is that?
NNAMDIThey don't even recognize you. What's going on at the D.C...
SHERWOODWhat has that had to do with the Park Service? But, anyway...
NNAMDIWhat's going on with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services? Chief Kenneth Ellerbe was delivering his state of the department address this past week, and it is my understanding that at least 100 firefighters turned their backs on him and walked out. Patrick Madden?
MADDENWell, it's just amazing, the amount of discord between the chief and the rank-and-file firefighters right now. I mean, on one hand, the big issue is whether to change their schedules, so they are no longer -- I think it would come out to eight days a month, but it would be perhaps...
SHERWOODOn one, off five.
MADDENRight, right. You're on for three days, then you're off for three days. So this would really make the firefighters have to come in and work a lot more. But there are all these other issues that have been, you know, kept coming up about T-shirts and about D.C. Fire and EMS versus DCFD and what you can wear. So it just seems like it's not this issue. It's that issue. And there's just a lot of discord between the chief and the firefighters right now.
SHERWOODBut one of the issues...
NNAMDIWhich is not unusual for the D.C. Fire Department.
SHERWOODWell, listen, you know, I think the fire department's working condition angst and problems is greater than what I'd like to call Middle East peace issues. I mean, I have been around the city since I was in the Navy, 1960s, and I've never -- there's been, like, a two-week spring maybe where everyone was happy in the fire department. And some of the officers don't like the change the chief made to initials F-E-M-S, FEMS, because that's some kind of derogatory reference maybe to an effeminate guy, and they're just embarrassed and...
MADDENThese are T-shirts. I mean, we're talking about fights over what shirts you can wear.
SHERWOODWell, I think that's -- I -- very seriously, there has been -- whoever the chief is, he or she -- I don't think we had many shes -- you know, brings in new people. Chief Rubin was here the last time. He put a lot of new people in there, and there are some complaints that they're too white. And Chief Ellerbe has brought some new people back who are African-American. It's just been horrendous there.
SHERWOODWhat I don't understand is, why is the fire chief giving a state of the fire department address?
SHERWOODThey have never heard of that. I mean, the mayor is going to give a state of the District address on February the 7th, and he's going to have a citywide forum on February the 11th. I mean, our -- it seems like the only policy is to have meetings.
NNAMDIWe're going to have a state of The Politics Hour address on the 1st...
SHERWOODWell, I'll give an opening statement.
NNAMDI...in February, but it seems, Patrick Madden, the biggest issue confronting them now is the chief's proposal to move from 24-hour shifts to more frequent 12-hour shifts. And a lot of the firefighters seem to think that will make them less effective because it will make them, well, more sleepy.
MADDENWell, I think the real issue is that the percentage of firefighters that live way outside the District, in -- I think the chief was talking about there are members that live out in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia. I mean, there -- a large majority live outside -- it's, like, a 30- or 40-mile radius. So this would drastically change their ability to, you know...
MADDENWell, to -- essentially, it's going to be really tough for them. Now, they have to come in a lot more...
MADDEN...as opposed to being able to...
SHERWOODAnd also, many of them, I'm told -- I don't know this for a fact -- but many of them have jobs because they...
SHERWOOD...work -- they only work one 24-hour period, and that means they're ready to, you know, give their life for that 24-hour period to fight fires. I'm not trying to minimize that. But then they are, in fact, off for, like, five days, and many of them have other jobs.
SHERWOODSo it's an issue.
MADDENAnd the other thing the chief has said is that when you work a 24-hour shift -- and there's now a growing body of research that shows you're more apt to make mistakes and...
SHERWOODBut also you can be asleep during that period...
SHERWOODWhen there's no fire, you're asleep.
MADDENBut I will say I spend a night, a 24-hour shift with the house of pain. They're out in Trinidad. They were, at the time, the busiest fire station in the country, and there was no sleeping. You would get a call literally every minute.
NNAMDIPatrick Madden is our guest analyst. He will accept an assignment that gives him a night to sleep just about any place. He is a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. A week ago on this broadcast, we spoke with Muriel Bowser, the D.C. councilmember who took the lead on the city's new ethics legislation.
NNAMDIJoining us now in the studio are two individuals who have started an effort aimed at banning direct corporate donations to political campaigns in the District of Columbia. Sylvia Brown is a community activist and a D.C. advisory neighborhood commissioner for 7c04, which is located in the Deanwood neighborhood. She's also the leading -- she's also leading the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust, which is what the new organization is called. Sylvia Brown, thank you very much for joining us.
MS. SYLVIA BROWNThanks, Kojo. Great to be here again.
NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Bryan Weaver. He is a former Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. He's run for an at-large seat and -- the seat in Ward 1, which probably qualifies him to have a future as a political analyst on radio someplace. He's also a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in the District. He is now also a leader of the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust. Bryan Weaver, with the best videos around when he's running for office, Bryan Weaver, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. BRYAN WEAVERThanks for having me on, Kojo.
NNAMDIThis is an effort that was partly borne, it's my understanding, out of your frustration with the council's recent approaches to ethics. Why are you frustrated, Bryan, and what are you trying to do now?
WEAVERYou know, anyone who followed the ethics debate and the push for sort of a more open transparent government, there were several amendments that came to the ethics package which I thought would have clarified a few issues that we've had here in the District, which is we have this dance where we allow major corporations to be able to sidestep campaign financing laws.
WEAVERPatrick Madden, actually, two years ago might have been the first reporter to really do some in-depth coverage on this, which we have and Colby King now starts to refer to as bundling, which is a company that has several smaller subsidiaries or LLCs attached to it is able to use each of them to give a maximum contribution to a candidate for D.C. Council or for the mayor. And, essentially, you end up with a company that has 10 times the ability to give direct donations to a candidate than an individual.
WEAVERSo there was an attempt to try to close that loophole and, at the same time, close the loophole which allows contractors, people who have contracts with the city, to make, through their companies, direct donations. Both of those amendments failed. Tommy Wells was offered them and was the only person to vote for them. The next week in the ethics legislation, Wells came back with two other ones, which is he asked for there to be transparency and who are the people behind these LLCs.
WEAVERNot saying that we're going to stop the money that would come through these LLCs, but, who are these people? And if you're a city contractor and you're giving directly to a political campaign, that you just need to denote that you are a city contractor, that you have business before the city. And both of those attempts, they failed with only one vote that was being Mr. Wells. This has been something I've been frustrated with for years. Colby King has written a series of articles about this recently in The Washington Post. Patrick has actually done several stories for WAMU on this.
WEAVERAnd I think that it -- we just really want the council to live essentially by the same laws that we want -- that we ask in Capitol Hill. Eleanor Holmes Norton can't take a direct check from a company, and we sort of feel that the members of the council should have to live by that same rule.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation. What do you think about corporate contributions to D.C. candidates running for office? 800-433-8850. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODYou know, I've talked to Bryan about this, and less so to Sylvia, but as I wrote in the Post when this was being discussed, that I am for massive disclosure, that this -- two items you just mentioned, full disclosure, who the LLC partner, the limited corporations, liability corporations -- who are the city contractors who give money, disclosures to where the money is coming from.
SHERWOODBut bans of corporate money seem to me just -- and I realize I'm saying, but Muriel Bowser also says, disperses the -- and obfuscates where the money actually comes from. If I'm corporation ABC and you ban me from giving directly to, let's say, Muriel Bowser, then I give the money to a PAC, and that gives the money to Bowser. What have we achieved? And Patrick looks like he wants to say something, but he's not the guest.
MADDENWell, I mean, I would just -- I would disagree with you, Tom, because if you actually look at these LLCs, all it is is an address.
SHERWOODOh, I know, I know.
MADDENAnd -- but there's no way -- unless you really want to start -- you have three hours to kill and you can start connecting the dots, you have to start opening up these sort of DCRA website, and you start -- it -- there's really no way for your average voter to know that some randomly named just LLC is from a candidate -- is from...
SHERWOODWell, why not? I agree. I think the disclosure -- the -- I think it's horrific. The financial and contribution list that people have to fill out is not only inadequate in what is asked for, and, I mean, asked because if a candidate asks for information and he or she doesn't receive it, that's all they have to do legally. They don't even have to get it -- but that form ought to be much larger. There ought to be one contribution per page maybe, and there ought to be more disclosure who's giving the money.
WEAVERSee, what ends up happening here...
SHERWOODWhat about the dispersal?
WEAVERBut here's the thing, is -- so what we currently have is a system where you allow a series of LLCs to send not one check to -- directly to a councilmember, but 10 checks to a sitting councilmember.
WEAVERAnd -- right. So if that money goes to a PAC, PACs still have to live by -- so you're talking about that same LLC would have to go to 10 different PACs, and that PAC is only allowed to give to the same limit.
WEAVERSo is it making it more difficult? And I don't want to, like, make the corporations to necessarily be the bad guy in this. I think that it's not...
NNAMDI'Cause you did get corporate contributions in your campaign.
WEAVERAbsolutely. Absolutely. But, you know...
SHERWOODAnd there are unions and others.
WEAVERI've not had a -- right. But here's the thing when it comes to that. You -- we can't paint this that a hardware store necessarily is -- you know, that all of a sudden, D.C. has no sort of trust and faith in people who run hardware stores or restaurants or construction companies in the city. It's the council that we've actually have the issue with trust with at the moment. And I think that it's easy for us to sort of point at corporate America and say, this is the evil. This is the problem.
WEAVERMy problem in this is that if you are councilmember and you have oversight of an agency and you start calling people who have business before the city to ask for campaign contributions and continually ask for them from different LLCs, it really muddies the waters.
NNAMDISylvia Brown, let's talk process here. What process do you have to follow to get this on the ballot in November? And what are your expectations for success?
BROWNSure. And just before transitioning, I think it's important to note that it doesn't have to be one or the other. We need to have both, the disclosure as well as limiting the corporate contributions. So the process is -- and we just got the tweet this morning that the D.C. Board of Elections has to have a hearing on the ballot initiative to make sure the title and the language are appropriate.
BROWNAnd so that hearing will actually be on special meeting hearing on the 13th of February at 12:30. Leading up to that, members of the public can send in support letters, resolutions, et cetera, by the 9th, and then as well get on the hearing list by the 10th. Certainly, it is a challenge as with any campaign because we have to get 5 percent of D.C. registered voters on the petition. But as we were just talking about, the first hurdle is ensuring it gets approved by the board of elections at that special meeting.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about corporate contributions to D.C. political candidates, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Send a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm sure that Sylvia Brown will be the first to receive it. She has been multitasking here on her handheld device, on her laptop and keeping up with the conversation at the same time. You can also go to our website, kojosjow.org, and join the conversation there. Who wants to be next?
SHERWOODWell, what -- can you -- do you have the -- you have to have a statement that people would vote on. Do you have the statement in place? Is it simple enough to read it? Can it be an X number -- it has to be, what, 110 words or something?
BROWNA hundred words and...
SHERWOODA hundred words.
BROWN...we did draft something up, of course, that has to get approval by the board of elections, so they could change that wording as well.
SHERWOODCan you -- one thing you want to do, if I can just ask a detailed question. There are many contractors, small and large, who -- that have business with the city, billions of dollars probably in total, and you're saying that those companies cannot give money, right?
WEAVERWe're not trying to draw the distinction between someone who has a city contract and someone who runs a mom-and-pop shop. We're saying that, across the board, if you have a partnership, a corporation, an LLC, that you shouldn't be allowed to give directly to a candidate, the same that you would do at the federal level. So, you know, the Mount Pleasant hardware store can't give directly to Eleanor Holmes Norton, so they shouldn't be allowed to give directly to the Bryan Weaver for city council campaign.
SHERWOODThey had to give it to an alternate.
SHERWOODYou're -- you don't expect people not to give. You acknowledge they would alter how they give. So we're changing how to give.
WEAVERAnd, well, no. I mean, I think there's two things. I mean, one, I think that there is a certain degree when people have -- they're in a regulated area of city government and they're in an industry that is regulated. When those council members start calling you, asking for campaign contributions and then they are asking it from, like, well, you have this place, but don't you also have a stake in this place?
WEAVERIt starts to muddy the waters because then you start to have the appearance that you're going to people that you have oversight of, that you actually have a control and interest of, and asking them for a political donation.
SHERWOODSo -- but...
NNAMDIHere's Patrick Madden.
MADDENAnd just I think the biggest complaint you hear is that it just isn't a fair system, that it really sort of tilts the scales in favor for the incumbents. They are the ones that are receiving most of these sort of bundled checks. And the other issue is just, it's technically legal, but does it work with sort of the spirit of the law? I mean, it just seems that if you are in a -- if you're a developer or some business owner that has multiple...
SHERWOODBut how -- well, Patrick, how does this stop the money -- any developer, any person with 10 LLCs, 10 real estate companies, if he or she cannot give directly, how does this ban stop them from giving to three, four or five PACs, who would simply give the money, have access to pass through? Where...
NNAMDIIndeed, Justin in Annandale sent us -- sent in a question. I guess he couldn't stay on the line. He said, "I agree about the need for transparency, but there are always loopholes. How is D.C. to prevent circumventing?" -- which is the same issue Tom is raising. How are you going to stop the circumvention, Bryan?
WEAVERLook, I think that there has to be a change in the culture of the Wilson Building. I think that the problem right now is that we have a council that has been resistant to fighting for elements of open government. I think that this is a citizen initiative, so this is something that's actually saying, you guys refuse to address this. So citizens are going to take a little bit of control of local government, and we're going to push this forward.
WEAVERAnd it maybe will make them feel uncomfortable, and maybe it'll actually push them to start doing elements of legislation that they should've have looked at during the ethics debate.
BROWNAnd to that point, I think we're making a connection here, and obviously the council and the mayor are in New Hampshire, advocating for D.C. statehood. And, really, when you start to think about that, as Bryan was saying, it's time for D.C. to -- we're no longer a small town, and it's time for us to grow up. Our civic process, our politics, et cetera, need to grow up and move past this kind of small town type of thinking.
NNAMDIAnd you're seeking to bring us in line with federal regulations (unintelligible) ?
BROWNThat's right. Federal regulations in about 20 some-odd other states. And so if we're trying...
SHERWOODBut again, I look at the federal regulations, and it says corporations...
SHERWOOD...can't give directly to a federal candidate. But they can give to political action committees…
SHERWOOD...which then turn around and give the money in any number of ways. How do you stop that? To me...
NNAMDIFrom evolving here in the District?
SHERWOODWe are -- I want more information. Now, if you are a corporation, you want to give and you have the city contract, I want to know, who are your principal partners? I want to know how much is the contract worth? And I want it all on one disclosure form, so you can see it. And I can see it -- if you're -- if someone's giving you...
SHERWOODAnd that, to me, is what I want to see, is I want more information, not banning.
WEAVERSo -- well, we just -- OK. We just had an ethics bill that came forward, and when we -- we had an amendment that came forward would said that city contractors would have to disclose that they were city contractors and that LLCs would have to say who the ownership of that group was, and it monumentally failed.
SHERWOODBut would that be on your -- I would go for that.
WEAVERSo where -- so -- but hold on. But where does it -- where does that leave the rest of us? To me, it's something where it become completely obvious that you have a handful of council members and a handful of corporations who are using a loophole in the law to circumvent what is the spirit...
NNAMDIWell, let's be specific...
SHERWOODI would love to...
NNAMDI...about what the possible consequences of this are? And I'll put that in the hands of John in Petworth in D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNYeah. I was wondering about the $3,250 received from Omar Karim by Muriel Bowser -- for Muriel Bowser, Omar Karim and Banneker Ventures. I was wondering if that sort of fed into the culture of the Wilson Building regarding sort of the questions about the contract the Banneker Ventures then received. I'm wondering if this is a good example of the potential pitfalls of allowing corporations to bundle in this way.
NNAMDIFor those people who are not familiar with Omar Karim, he was a contractor with the city who came to prominence during the Fenty administration because he and Banneker Ventures were involved in fairly large contracts with the city. It must be said that there was a lot of controversy over those contracts. In the final analysis, however, they do seem to have delivered.
WEAVERSo let me -- in not having Muriel's report in front of me, I don't know if these are checks that came through different subsidiaries of Banneker. But here would be my point. If Omar Karim and his partners want to write a check to Muriel Bowser, I can call Omar Karim and say, so why are you supporting Muriel Bowser? I can't call one, two, three enterprises that doesn't have an email address, that doesn't have a website, that doesn't have a telephone.
SHERWOODWhat if we require that? I mean, the council -- you're right. They refused to pass it, and that was wrong. I think the council voted to obscure contributions, which is what you're fighting.
MADDENAnd I think also the bottom line is that there -- most of these laws are already on the books. I mean, you are supposed to -- the Office of Campaign Finance is supposed to look at when there are multiple sort of corporations stemming from the same address. They're supposed to look at this stuff, but it just doesn't happen. And it was like when Togo West said, just bring me more auditors. That's all I need.
MADDENI mean, there is just -- I think there's two full-time auditors working there right now. So, yes, we need to change and perhaps -- you know, changing the laws is one thing, but there also has to be more follow up, more enforcement.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking about a proposal to end corporate campaign contributions in elections in the District of Columbia. We're talking with Bryan Weaver. He's a former Democratic candidate for the D.C. council and a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in the District. Sylvia Brown is a community activist and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood commissioner. Patrick Madden is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. And Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
NNAMDIMuriel Bowser told us last week that there is not a direct relationship between raising money and the most money -- raising the most money and winning an election. We checked that data and looked back at election results for council and mayor seats these past three elections: special election from April 2011, Democratic primary September 2010, Democratic and Republic primary September 2008.
NNAMDIOut of 12 competitive races, the candidate with the most money won in 10 of them, the only exceptions being the 2010 Democratic primary for mayor, which was won by Vincent Gray over Adrian Fenty, and the 2008 Republican primary for the at-large council seat, which was won by Patrick Mara over Carol Schwartz. We also looked at who was raising corporate dollars. In all cases, corporate dollars flowed disproportionately to incumbents.
NNAMDIAlthough in the two exceptions, both Vincent Gray and Patrick Mara raised roughly a quarter of their money from corporate and business sources. Make what you will of that. Here now is Joe in Washington, D.C. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEYes, why -- I'm not an expert in D.C. election law. So why the hyper-focus on corporations and not union activity? Is that structural? Is it -- what's the difference? Why it's so...
WEAVERNo -- yeah, I'll take a stab at this. So there's -- about 40 percent of the contributions that go members of the council come from some form of a corporation, whether that's an LLC, a partnership or a corporation, so 40 percent of the intake from incumbents at the council. Under 1 percent come from organized labor and then -- and majority of it comes from their political action committees. And we're not really addressing the issues around political action committees.
WEAVERSo you're talking about under four -- or 0.4 percent actually comes from the general funds. Ultimately, I think, that there does need to be a look into independent expenditures that have happened here in the District. But when you're talking about the flow of money, where it comes from, overwhelmingly, you're talking -- and Patrick Madden actually ran a piece looking at the elections coming up in April where there's almost a 1:1 ratio, just under a 1:1 ratio from individual contribution versus corporate contributions.
WEAVERAnd unions, while having some influence, are just really not a factor in that. And I don't believe that you probably -- if you have a general fund, that that money should go towards a campaign, but we're talking under one-half of 1 percent.
MADDENBut I guess, Bryan, to the caller's point, if it is such a small, miniscule number, why not include labor unions in your language for this ballot initiative just to take that issue off the table? Just to say, hey, we're being fair. We're going to treat everyone the same way. Why give opponents of this sort of an end to oppose it?
SHERWOODEach -- yeah, each locals, say, SEIU labor union -- each local can give money but it's still the SEIU.
WEAVERYeah. But it's -- but there's also not as attempt from -- local unions are not creating LLCs for the sole purpose of giving money directly to campaigns. And, yeah, I agree. When you're talking about people that are send -- when there's unions that are giving directly from their general funds to a candidacy, that's probably something that shouldn't happen. At the end of the day, you at least have a leadership within the labor movement that is being voted on.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Joe. Here is E.J. in Washington, D.C. Sylvia Brown, E.J. raises an entirely different issue. E.J., your turn.
E.J.Oh, (word?) Sylvia, thank you again for this conversation. My question is, why are we focusing so much on the funds instead of the folks in office? Pennsylvania has unlimited contributions. And Virginia has somewhat similar rules. And if you look at either state, as states they have one-fourth to one-fifth of the ethical violations or even complaints that D.C. has. The issue is not money. The issue are the folks with it. Lastly, the unions don't give money direct.
E.J.They do independent expenditures, and they pay campaign staffers to go campaign. Just look at Vincent (word?) in this last race where he had folks from the local laborers went over to campaigning up and down George Avenue.
NNAMDISylvia Brown, E.J. said it's not the source of the money. It's the people who are getting it that you need to be looking at.
BROWNWell, I think -- and to answer the question about the union quickly, we did talk about that in the group. And, as this measure moves forth, that is something that, you know, we are open to working with other groups on. To the point about the people in office, this is an entire comprehensive issue, and, certainly, E.J. makes a great point. Campaign finance reform is about, how do we help to get quality candidates, quality elected officials into office?
BROWNAnd this is certainly one way that we can do that, by banning the corporate contributions to level the playing field or attempt to level the playing field so that people can focus on the messaging, the ground gain, the outcomes of elected officials and those that are trying to run against (unintelligible).
SHERWOODSylvia, I think it's pretty clear in American politics. Campaign money corrupts in many ways, not just here. We're not unique to any place in America or any of the people. I mean, it's not like to say we have not had four governors like Illinois go to prison in the last 40 years, but maybe we should have. But...
SHERWOOD...we haven't. But what the -- I've lost my train of thought.
WEAVERWe'd have to have a governor first.
SHERWOODYeah. But I just think -- I think what -- I just can't get past what -- I think what you guys want to do sounds right, if we banned the -- but how are you going -- why not just do more disclosure? Wouldn't that -- then you would really know who's giving money.
WEAVERAgain, and I don't think...
BROWNIt's not one or the other, though.
WEAVERNo, I understand.
SHERWOODYou know, I feel like we're on a (word?).
BROWNIt's not (unintelligible) who we are.
WEAVERI understand you want to go -- but look what you wrote? And you wrote about disclose, disclose, disclose. And I wrote about this being a problem that you have people who have influence over industry in the city, people who are picking on city contracts, people who have oversight of different moments of business, and they are going out and seeking contributions from these folks.
WEAVERPerfect example -- look at -- if you want to look at disclosure, look at where the people in iGaming industry are giving their money in this re-elect, where community bridges during the lawn-cutting controversy, like where they went out and, like, try to -- so in those senses -- but when you allow one entity to, you know, create three or four different organizations and allow them to give...
SHERWOODAnd buried in the system where you can't find it, this is -- but I want to see that.
NNAMDII'm going to be more specific, Bryan. What expectations did you have when you jumped into the race against Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham two years ago? I remember you trying to make corporate influence an issue in that campaign. It obviously wasn't enough to get voters to think differently about the incumbent candidate.
WEAVERYeah. You know, I think that people make decisions in elections for many different reasons. I think that you want to look at where corporate money goes into it. I raised this with the Office of Campaign Finance. You have donors who violate the limits that they're allowed to give. You have construction companies that give to incumbents that haven't had a legitimate -- you know, that have had their business licenses the city revoked five, six years ago.
WEAVERYou have houses in Ward 4 that hold three or four different LLCs within the premises that seem to have no business other than to filter money directly to candidates. So in moments of disclosure, yes, but, again, the Council had disclosure before them. And they punted on the issue. What I'm saying is just live by the rules that were -- that we ask Eleanor Holmes Norton live by or we ask anyone, you know, to live by.
WEAVERIf New York City, if Philadelphia, if major cities that have Democratic legislators and Democratic city councils are finding ways to move away from corporate contributions, why is it in the District of Columbia where we have an overwhelmingly Democratic city do we still feel that this is something that we need within our city government?
SHERWOODThe Board of Trade, the Greater Washington Board of Trade is the biggest business organization in the metropolitan area. Should it give money to local candidates? It's an organization.
WEAVERThe Board of Trade has a PAC, and they do give money directly to candidates. And they're made up of many different companies. Realtors have that. Bud PAC has that. SEU has that.
SHERWOODThe restaurants have it. The unions...
WEAVERRestaurants have it, yes.
SHERWOODEverybody has a PAC. So..
WEAVERWhat I don't like is when an individual councilmember has, let's say, oversight over the restaurant industry, and you go to, like, 15 different restaurants, maybe some of which have business for the city.
NNAMDIThere is an issue in which this all comes together and which all of you know about, so I'll let Bill in Northwest Washington bring it up. This is a topic that we intended to discuss anyway, but, Bill, you've got it. Go ahead.
BILLWell, again, it's -- I think it was all drawn out exactly today in The Washington Post editorial, detailing the essential shakedown by Councilmember Graham of the individual soliciting of the contract for the lottery board. And not only did he know, you know, probably shaking them down for contributions to his campaign, but was complaining to them about their contributions to an opponent of his in prior years. And it's just so egregious.
BILLAgain, they got Scott Bolden essentially, in an email, saying, you know, this is BS. We got to get out of this because we're border-lining corruption and influence peddling. And so Graham's response was, I don't want to follow this up by email. In a sense, they wanted to get rid of the paper trail. And it's just -- it's so egregious that -- well, I just can't believe...
NNAMDII'd like to go around the table on this one. I will start with you, Sylvia Brown. What does this story say to you?
BROWNIt says that this initiative is a perfect opportunity for D.C. residents, civic activists like myself to become more involved and regain trust in our public officials so, you know, taking the doubt of the table.
WEAVERYeah. I would rather that, you know, if an individual is giving a contribution to someone running for the City Council, you're having a conversation with someone. Tom Sherwood, why did you give money to Sylvia Brown? I thought we were boys. But when you start talking about people, and they have ventures with the city or contracts before the city, it muddies the waters.
WEAVERAnd it completely, you know, when we had Tom Lindenfeld here, he wrote an op-ed to the Washington Post, and he talked about one of the things in it was funny ways to eliminate pay to play. Well, that -- at least heart was what he was talking about with pay to play. People who had contracts with the city shouldn't be allowed to give money to political campaigns. And that really -- people that have business before the city, it really starts to make it seem like it's influence peddling.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're running out of time very quickly. But before you leave, Tom Sherwood and Patrick Madden, I would like you to weigh in for the benefit of our listeners about the hearing that was held about how Internet gaming got into the D.C. lottery contract and how that played out in the hearing that you both covered.
SHERWOODInternet gaming was added after the initial contract was led.
SHERWOODBy -- well, by the chief financial officer allowed it to come in. His office did. And it is in -- he is contending, well, no. It was in there if it was in there. But it wasn't specifically mentioned. But the lawyer said it's non-traditional gaming. There's Jack Evans even, who's been, I think, inclined to support Internet gambling. Said look, we could not possibly have known we were approving in that gambling.
SHERWOODThis has been mishandled from the get-go. David Catania has said if this goes forward, he will sue. And it looks like this whole Internet gambling thing could collapse of its own weight, and part of it is the influence peddling that these guys are trying to block.
NNAMDIPatrick Madden, you covered that too.
MADDENThe entire process from, the get-go, has just been a complete mess when you go back to how this option to include something called "non-traditional gaming." But it didn't say what that meant. They sign off on that. Then the CFO's office, essentially, it comes after the fact this iGaming venture, and then it gets not slipped into -- I'm not going to say slipped. But it gets added to the budget bill without a public hearing by Councilmember Michael Brown. And then it becomes law.
MADDENAnd then finally, you know, months years later, we realize what it is, and then we start -- and then the city starts holding hearings on it after the fact that it's already law and now they're in a top spot 'cause as Tom points out, you have Councilmember Catania saying he will sue the CFO's office if this thing goes forward without a vote. And you have councilmember Barry essentially saying if this doesn't go forward -- if this...
SHERWOODBut that was what the IG says, that was not done properly, if we have any -- if we're going to need to get rid of the IG and get a different IG. But the IG says this was not done properly. Whether it was intentional or not, let's deal with the fact that the IG says it's not legal.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, the irony is that all of this apparent subterfuge may have been unnecessary because it would appear that citizens in the city may, in a majority, approve of Internet gambling.
SHERWOODWell, yes. Oh, yes. You're saying, had it been done above board, it probably would have been no big deal.
MADDEN'Cause now everyone's on board.
NNAMDIBryan Weaver, what do you take from all of this, last comment?
WEAVERI was actually going to mention this, and I mentioned it a little bit earlier. Some of the subsidiaries of the people that have the iGaming contract are out, you know, peppering money to each of the people that are up for reelection right now. And this is exactly what we're talking about. This should be something that's decided on its merits and not necessarily, like, who it is that they can get the most checks to.
NNAMDIAnd we have crunched the numbers about corporate donations. You can find them at our website, kojoshow.org, so you can come to your own conclusion at the -- about the influence of corporate donations on political campaigns in the District of Columbia. Sylvia Brown, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDISylvia Brown is the multitasking community activist and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood commissioner for 7c04. She's also leading the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust. And, Bryan Weaver, thank you for joining us.
WEAVERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIBryan Weaver is a former Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. He's also a former Advisory Neighborhood commissioner in the District. He is also a co-leader of the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust. Tom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. And Patrick Madden is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5.
NNAMDIThe first line of a Washington Post article this week read as such: "Delegate David Englin wants you to know that he is no pothead." But he joins us now by telephone anyway. David Englin is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Democrat, who represents the commonwealth's 45th district which is located in Alexandria. Delegate Englin, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. DAVID ENGLINHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me on the show.
NNAMDIHere you are, pushing a plan that would require Virginia to study how much money it could make if it legalized marijuana and sold it in state-run liquor stores. Why is this a conversation worth starting, in your view?
ENGLINWell, I think it's important. It's actually continuing a conversation that a -- Delegate Harvey Morgan, who is a Republican, one of the elder statesmen around here, he retired last year, in his last few years he has been working on a number of these marijuana-related issues. So it's really the continuation of a conversation. But over the years, constituents have asked me.
ENGLINA surprising number of constituents have asked me, you know, if we need revenue for all of these critical priorities, instead of raising taxes, why don't we look at legalizing marijuana and selling it in the ABCs and seeing how much money we could get from that? So I have not proposed legalization and legalizing and selling marijuana. What I'm proposing is simply to find out, if we went down that road, how much revenue we'd be talking about so that we can have an informed conversation about this issue.
NNAMDIYou're quoted as saying all of the respectable people in our community who are secretly toking on the side are giving their money to criminals. For someone who has never used marijuana, I'm surprised at your use of the in terms. I looked up toke in dictionary.com, and it says a tip or gratuity given by a gambler to a dealer or other employee at a casino. What's this other meaning that you refer to, toking?
ENGLINWell, obviously, my inexperience with marijuana myself maybe caused me to use the wrong vocabulary. But the point is I know, and I know of people in communities all across Virginia -- and I've actually heard from many of them since putting in this legislation -- there are respectable members of our communities and of society who are smoking marijuana secretly. And when they purchase that product, they are giving money to criminals.
ENGLINSo it begs the question if it has a level of societal acceptance where a number of states are either decriminalizing it or allowing it for medical purposes or legalizing it and all of these kinds of things, and if it has a level of societal acceptance where people that you interact with on a day-to-day basis are smoking marijuana on the side, then maybe it's worth at least just finding out what the revenue numbers might look like so that we can have an intelligent conversation about what can be a -- an emotional topic.
NNAMDIThe correct answer, by the way, was Merriam Webster defines toke as a puff on a marijuana cigarette, but here's Tom Sherwood.
ENGLINWell, I only know what I've heard in songs and what people have told me, so...
NNAMDIHere's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODThis is Tom Sherwood from Channel 4. You're asking for what is often done in the legislature in Virginia. You're asking for a study that would last not more than a year till January next year, to look at all the aspects of it. Would it simply be looking -- I was looking at the resolution here. Is it simply for revenue, or would you look at the societal cause or the morality issues of selling a drug like this? What -- I don't see anything bad in your study. It looks like it's all dollars and cents.
ENGLINMy intention is dollars and cents, but the -- but proposing it in the form of creating this study committee is an opportunity to bring together a variety of stakeholders. And I've served on a number of study committees over the years, looking at different things. The way they work is you have legislators from the House and the Senate on the committee.
ENGLINYou have various stakeholders on the committee who appear before the committee. So, certainly, I would imagine that those issues would come up as part of the discussion.
SHERWOODIf I could ask another question, as a free enterprise person in the state -- Commonwealth of Virginia, why not let there just be, you know, sales in stores? If it's a good idea, you could probably sell even more. Some people think the ABC -- you know, I think -- wasn't it the governor who was trying to get rid of the ABC Stores?
ENGLINHe was. He was. That's a great question. One of the issues here is Virginia has already figured out how to control and regulate and sell a -- an intoxicating, addictive product, and that's distilled spirits. And we have a -- an infrastructure in place that is doing a good, efficient job of that through the ABC system. So whatever you think about ABC legalization, it hasn't passed. I know the governor would like for it to pass, but it just hasn't, and it doesn't look like it's going to.
ENGLINSo I'm proposing this because the other aspect of this, once you get down the road and start talking about whether or not legalizing it and regulating it and selling it at an ABC is a good idea, you get into issues of whether or not that is an effective way, and perhaps a better way than we have now, to control the access that kids have to it and that kind of thing. I mean, a dealer on the street doesn't care about whether he's selling to, you know, a 40-year-old banker or a 14-year-old child, whereas, if you into the ABC store, there's some regulation and some control and some law enforcement.
ENGLINBut, again, I just want to be very clear, though, that what I'm proposing is -- what I'm looking at is let's find out the dollars and cents so that we can have a smart conversation about this. I'm not proposing we go that additional step and legalize this.
MADDENWhat has the feedback been from your colleagues? Have they -- does this -- do you think this proposal will make it out of committee? Do you think this stands a chance to go forward?
ENGLINI have very low expectations for the progress of the proposal. But, again, my point with putting it in is really twofold. It's to continue the conversation about these issues that Delegate Harvey Morgan started. And he retired, and so I'm, in a way, picking up that torch a little bit. And my other purpose is to really get the numbers so that we can have some information, so that as we have these conversations, we can be smart in our discussions.
ENGLINI realize that if this doesn't pass, we're not going to get the numbers. But what I've accomplished by putting it out there is people are now talking about the numbers, and people are now talking about this idea. Those are a positive thing.
SHERWOODIf you want to raise money in the state of Virginia, all you have to do is raise the incredibly low cigarette tax. What is it, 20 cents a pack?
ENGLINIt's -- it is one of the lowest in the country.
ENGLINAnd I tell you, Tom, I have proposed, time and again, bringing our cigarette tax up to the national average, which would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for human services and a whole range of things...
SHERWOODI think you'll have legal marijuana when you do that, and we'll also have Newt Gingrich's colony on the moon.
NNAMDIHey, Delegate Englin, you're part of the progressive caucus in the General Assembly. You're up against a Republican majority in the House of Delegates, a de facto majority in the Senate, and a Republican governor and a Republican lieutenant governor. But it is my understanding that you think there's room to actually work with Republicans and push the ball forward on, at the very least, fixing the state's tax code?
ENGLINYeah, that's exactly right, and I'm glad you asked me about that, Kojo. We had a great press conference the other day where Delegate Ben Cline, who's the chairman of the conservative caucus here in the House, and myself as a co-founder of the progressive caucus, we are actually working very closely together on an initiative to create more transparency and accountability in Virginia's tax preference structure.
ENGLINThe commonwealth actually loses billions and billions of dollars a year in revenue because of all of the various tax giveaways and loopholes and credits that have accumulated over the years. We have 187 of these tax preferences, and none of them really get the appropriate amount of scrutiny. Twenty of them have some kind of reporting requirement, but none of them have any kind of institutionalized way for us to evaluate them and see if they're even accomplishing their intended purpose.
ENGLINThis is something that liberals and conservatives here in the General Assembly actually agree on. And so we are making a concerted effort to work together on those issues, and I'm fairly hopeful that we're going to make progress on that front this session.
NNAMDIHere is Rio, who's calling from Prince George's County, Md. Rio, go ahead, please.
RIOKojo, first of all, let me go ahead by stating -- and I've called multiple times -- it's always a pleasure to rush my lunch break to address community affairs. I'm a resident, longtime resident of Alexandria, graduate of West Potomac. What I want to say to the delegate is what you're stating is that this is really all about the revenue. You made a great statement and factoring that the children are protected by putting in an ABC store and things of that nature.
RIOIf you're doing a study like this, it's obviously for the revenue. Be forward thinking. Be progressive. Don't be a politician. Be someone that's really going to do it for us. And I really can read between the lines. Toking, if you know what toking is, you definitely know what toking is. And I appreciate and applaud you trying to generate revenue in a responsible manner if everyone else is doing it.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Rio. Care to respond, Delegate Englin?
ENGLINWell, I appreciate the comment, and I have to say that of the hundreds of calls and emails I'm getting into my office, I've had fewer than a dozen in opposition to this idea. And the vast majority of people who've contacted me have expressed the kind of sentiment that you just heard from the caller.
SHERWOODWhat about online gambling?
ENGLINWell, that is not my proposal. As we say here in Virginia, get your own bill.
NNAMDIOne step at a time.
MADDENGet your own bill, Tom.
NNAMDIDavid Englin is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Democrat who represents the commonwealth's 45th District. It's located in Alexandria. Delegate Englin, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLINThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood. He is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure, Tom.
SHERWOODGood show today.
NNAMDIPatrick Madden is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5, so I don't have to say goodbye to you 'cause you're going to be around.
MADDENThank you very much, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you for joining us. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff. Ingalisa Schrobsdorff? There are two people in the studio today named Christian and Sabila (sp?) Schrobsdorff. I wonder if they're related, or that's just a coincidence. Anyway, welcome to you both. The show is produced also by Kathy Goldgeier, Tayla Burney, with assistance from Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. Our engineer today, Andrew Chadwick. A.C. Valdez is on the phones. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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