Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jan 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Eric Wang
Note: The writer is a lawyer and a senior fellow at the Center for 
Competitive Politics.


Civic-minded citizens of the District: Think twice the next time you 
write a blog entry, post on Facebook or Twitter or attend a meeting 
or rally to support or oppose a ballot initiative. You could be 
required to register and report with the city or else pay a large 
fine. The Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) at the D.C. Board of 
Elections dropped this end-of-the-year bombshell in an enforcement 
proceeding arising from November's election, in which District 
residents voted to legalize marijuana.

In the run-up to the vote on Initiative 71, District resident William 
V. Jones III created the Web site "Two. Is. Enough. D.C." Under the 
premise that having two legal recreational substances (alcohol and 
tobacco) was enough, the Web site provided opinions and information 
opposing marijuana legalization. According to the OCF, Mr. Jones also 
invoked the "Two Is Enough" slogan when he "participated in various 
meetings and demonstrations" in the D.C. community.

After leaders of the pro-legalization D.C. Cannabis Campaign 
suggested that Jones was violating campaign finance laws by not 
registering and reporting as a "political committee," Mr. Jones 
registered "No On Initiative 71" to engage in activities opposing the 
initiative. The D.C. Cannabis Campaign nonetheless filed a complaint 
with the OCF against the purported group known as "Two Is Enough."

The OCF acknowledged that Two Is Enoug hwas separate from the No On 
Initiative 71 committee. It concluded that Two Is Enough was required 
to register and report because D.C. law defines a political committee 
as any "individual, committee (including a principal campaign 
committee), club, organization, association, or other group of 
individuals organized for the purpose of, or engaged in promoting or 
opposing, the nomination or election of an individual to office, a 
political party, or any initiative, referendum, or recall measure." 
For his civic participation, Mr. Jones was fined $2,000.

The OCF pointed out that Mr. Jones's Web site asked for donations and 
likely made expenditures to pay for its operation. But, under the 
broad language of the municipal code and OCF's broad application, he 
would have been required to register and report even if he had 
received no contributions and made no expenditures.

The District is not alone in approving marijuana legalization, having 
joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state. Unfortunately, 
other jurisdictions also have draconian campaign finance laws that 
have made a mockery of the direct democracy that voter initiatives 
are supposed to provide citizens. Like Mr. Jones, citizens in 
Colorado and Arizona have been punished under comparable laws and 
circumstances, but federal courts recently found those states' laws 

The District's law is similarly unconstitutional, and D.C. Council 
members shouldn't wait for a judge to fix it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom