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Interpretative Opinion 2017-01

Interpretative Opinion 2017-01

August 15, 2017

 

Beverly Perry, Senior Advisor to the Mayor

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 324

Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Ms. Perry:

This responds to your memorandum dated August 4, 2017, in which you requested an Interpretative Opinion regarding “new strategies on Statehood and Congressional representation for residents of Washington, DC”. You indicated that the following activities are under consideration:

The Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM) and the New Columbia Statehood Commission (Statehood Commission) would enlist the services of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) to create a portal from which District of Columbia residents would be matched with suggested United States Senators whom the residents could contact to express their views on policies and issue that impact them;

The EOM and the Statehood Commission would contact District of Columbia residents via letter, informing them of the Senators with whom they are matched; and

The EOM and the Statehood Commission would provide District of Columbia residents with a suggested letter residents may send to Senators to express their concerns regarding Statehood and Congressional voting representation.

inquiry, apparently concerns whether the proposed activity noted above would violate any provisions of the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Act.

D.C. Official Code §1-1163.36(a) states that: “No resources of the District of Columbia government, including, the expenditure of funds, the personal services of employees during their hours of work, and nonpersonal services, including supplies, materials,

equipment, office space, facilities, telephones and other utilities, shall be used to support or oppose any candidate for elected office, whether partisan or nonpartisan, or to support

or oppose any initiative, referendum, or recall measure, including a charter amendment referendum conducted in accordance with §1-203.03. ”

While the Office of Campaign Finance is vested with the authority to enforce violations of the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Act, the activities proposed in your memorandum do not encompass supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office, supporting or opposing an initiative, referendum or recall measure envisioned by the Initiative, Referendum, and Recall Charter Amendments Act of 1977, or a charter amendment referendum.

In addition, the activities associated with the EOM and the Statehood Commission enlisting the services of OCTO to create a portal which District of Columbia residents may use to express their concerns to United States Senators do not appear to conflict with OCTO’s mission as a District of Columbia government agency to “centralize responsibility” for the District government’s information technology and telecommunications systems throughout the District Government (D.C. Official Code §1-1402). Moreover, the activity is clearly consistent with the purposes for which the Statehood Commission was established which include to “educate regarding, advocate for, promote, and advance the proposition of statehood and voting rights for the District of Columbia to District residents and citizens of the 50 states.”

In sum, based upon the information you have provided, it does not appear that any of the activities that the Executive Office of the Mayor and the New Columbia Statehood Commission intend to undertake in connection with the creation of and use of a portal to support statehood and Congressional representation are within the scope of the applicable provisions of the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Act.

it was well advised to also seek a review by BEGA of the intended activities, in light of their responsibilities to administer and enforce of the District of Columbia Code of Ethics and the Local Hatch Act. Accordingly, the Office of Campaign will defer to BEGA regarding those provisions.

The foregoing is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1163.06, you are entitled to request an Advisory Opinion from the Board of Elections on this transaction or activity.

Should you have any additional questions, please contact William O. SanFord, General Counsel, at (202) 671-0549.