I’ve had more than a few people ask me why I am supporting Peter Shapiro rather than Sekou Biddle. I’ve been asked why I don’t fall in line and get behind the so-called more electable candidate. As election day nears, I think it’s important for people to remember just what we’re fighting for and why it’s important to take a stand.
Last year, I helped launch Bryan Weaver’s campaign for at-large D.C. Council. I did so because myself and others believed there was something missing from the crop of candidates. We wanted a candidate who would take a stand on the issues that are important, and not be bogged down by the cronyism that is so rampant in D.C. politics.
In January of 2011, I attended the meeting of the D.C. Democratic State Committee where Sekou Biddle was appointed to temporarily fill the at-large seat on the Council. Like many others, I felt the selection process was absurd. We had a very small group of insiders voting for who would represent hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents. It was a race between two main candidates — Vincent Orange and Sekou Biddle (sounds familiar, right?).
It started off a close vote. On the second round of voting it was a tie between Biddle and Orange. Before the third round, I saw everything that is wrong with D.C. politics. I watched as Council Chair Kwame Brown, Councilmember Marion Barry, former Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. and others all twist arms and persuade people to get behind Biddle.
The voting was supposed to be public — but the tallies of who voted for who was never released. On the third round, Biddle won and was appointed to the seat.
Over the next few months, we’d see the Council, the Mayor, and everyone else rally around Biddle to defeat Orange. The money rolled in, but come election day, Biddle came in third behind Orange and Pat Mara, a Republican.
Let bygones be bygones, right? Well, not so fast. How do we make a clean break from the past if we stick with people so tied to those we want to defeat?
It’s been amazing to see so many people forget that any of this happened. Biddle and his campaign want to make this seem like ancient history — but it’s not. It’s barely history at all.
People say don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Well, I’d rather fight for the perfect than settle with the status quo.
I support Peter Shapiro because he’s not indebted to the current establishment. He has relevant experience that would immediately help the District. He knows how to deliver results. He’s a true progressive — who doesn’t need to run from his record.
The city got a trial run with Sekou Biddle last time, and we opted not to renew. Vincent Orange has admitted to accepting questionable and suspicious funds from a man who is under federal investigation. It’s time for something different. It’s time for some fresh air.
We need to restore trust in the Council. To do that, we need someone new fighting the good fight. We can’t keep trying the same old things hoping somehow for a different result. That hasn’t worked, and it’s not going to.
Peter Shapiro is the best choice for rebooting this Council and making our government one that works for the people — not the insiders.
Today, DC Public Trust representatives will pick up petitions for Initiative 70 (“The Prohibition on Corporate Campaign Contributions Initiative of 2012”) at the DC Board of Elections & Ethics. Initiative 70 puts up a roadblock to one of the main ways big money influences the votes of our local elected officials. It makes it unlawful for a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership to contribute to principal campaign committees, inaugural committees, or constituent service funds (CSFs). DC Public Trust now embarks on its ambitious campaign to collect almost 23,000 signatures from DC voters to place the initiative on the ballot for November.
Initiative 70 does not aim to end pay-to-play politics; only comprehensive, multifaceted campaign finance reform can do that. Last week, Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced an ambitious bill that would exact severe penalties for DC contractors who attempt to buy our elected officials with contributions, as well as outlawing all corporate contributions to campaigns. However, it is unlikely this bill will get out of committee, let alone be enacted by this Council, which does not even acknowledge that the “pay-to-play” culture undermines our democracy. Hence the need for a citizens’ initiative.
At-large Councilmember Vincent Orange has cleverly played the part of ethics reformer, but his lack of support for Initiative 70 shows he is insincere. Orange has tweeted that Initiative 70 falls short because it does not ban Councilmembers from being employed by corporations. Absolutely, outside employment constitutes a huge conflict of interest. Progressive grassroots group, DC for Democracy included this important reform in its comprehensive ethics reform proposals last year. But Orange’s argument is clearly disingenuous, since an initiative must be simple, concise, and limited. Having received more than $100,000 from Jeffrey Thompson, one of the leading bundlers in DC politics, it is hardly surprising that Orange is not leading the charge on outlawing corporate contributions.
At-large Council candidate Peter Shapiro, who is challenging Orange in the April 3rd Democratic Primary, has unambiguously endorsed Initiative 70 as an important first step, and he goes even further. In February, before Councilmember Cheh introduced her recent bill, Shapiro expressed his support for outlawing campaign contributions by entities under contract or soliciting contracts from the DC government. At DC for Democracy’s candidate forum in February, Shapiro also voiced his support for public financing of elections.
On April 3rd, we can elect a real ethics reformer or re-elect a cleverly disguised master of the “pay-to-play” game.
Interested in volunteering for the Initiative 70 campaign? Sign up here.
Disclosure: the writer serves as DC for Democracy’s Membership Chair.
The District of Columbia is in crisis. Earlier this year, a member of the D.C. Council resigned in disgrace immediately before pleading guilty to embezzlement. Right now, at least one member of the Council is under federal investigation for fundraising improprieties. A little over a week ago, we learned that a prolific bagman and bundler for the mayor and members of the Council was also under federal investigation.
Enough is enough.
On April 3, voters in the District will have a choice to make. Will we accept the status quo—a government filled with self-serving, even corrupt pols—or will we choose an alternative? As progressives, we also have a choice to make. Will we unite behind and fight for a progressive champion, or will we splinter and deliver a victory for the incumbent?
The goal of this site is to unite progressives behind Peter Shapiro for D.C. Council At-Large. We are a diverse group of activists from across the District who believe Peter Shapiro is best equipped to both defeat Vincent Orange and deliver results for our city.
Over the next few weeks, as Election Day nears, we will use this space to explain why Peter is the right choice, and why we are supporting him. We hope that you will join us in supporting Peter, and that you will cast your vote for him in the Democratic primary on April 3.