Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cheh Cleared of Wrongdoing by OCF

Yolanda Woodlee of the Washington Post reports that the allegations brought by former Ward 3 Candidate Jonathan R. Rees against Councilmember Mary Cheh have been dismissed. The report can be accessed via the OCF website.

Rees filed the complaint in February alleging then Candidate Cheh received preferential rent on campaign office space from a local developer, and further that an unregistered Political Action Committee illegally benefitted the Cheh campaign.

The Office of Campaign Finance report summarizes:

To highlight the issue of the existence of a political committee, during the 2006 elections in the District of Columbia, a group of Ward 3 residents, friends and neighbors, came together to interview the candidates seeking election to the Ward 3 Council seat to determine the best qualified candidate to represent their Ward, because the field was so crowded. These individuals held meetings, contacted the candidates to schedule interviews, prepared questions for the interviews to glean the candidates’ positions on issues of interest to the group; and ultimately decided to support Mary Cheh.

D.C. Official Code §1-1101.01(5) defines the term “political committee” to mean any proposer, individual, committee (including a principal campaign committee) club, association, organization, or other group of individuals organized for the purpose of or engaged in: promoting or opposing a political party, promoting or opposing the nomination or election of an individual to office, or promoting or opposing any initiative, referendum, or recall”. The group identified as “Ward 3 Action” did not engage in activity that falls within the above referenced definition. While it may be viewed that “Ward 3 Action” formed to determine the best qualified candidate to represent their Ward, these neighbors and friends did not engage in any activity that clearly extends beyond arriving at a determination of who was the “best qualified” candidate. The group did not solicit contributions or make expenditures to promote the nomination of any one candidate to office.

After Cheh became the group’s choice, the group dispersed prior to the conduct of the Primary Election. Individuals associated with the group then proceeded to promote her candidacy in their individual capacity by contributing financially to the Cheh Principal Campaign Committee. In addition, a number of the members of the group were employed and paid by the Cheh Campaign to perform services...

When the group selected Cheh as their candidate and thereafter dispersed, these residents expressed their selection of Cheh and their commitment to support her candidacy in the handbill entitled, “Why We Support Mary Cheh For Ward 3 Council”. The goal of Ward 3 Action was accomplished.

WHEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED this matter be dismissed in its totality; and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the fine in this matter is hereby suspended.

This Order may be appealed to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics within 15 days from the date of issuance.

The Washington Post quoted Mr. Rees as having no intention of filing an appeal. According to DCist that statement pertained to the OCF. He has not ruled out an appeal to the judicial system.

How many taxpayer funded hours were (and will be) wasted on this effort?

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