Cardinal Keeps Lobby Rider in D.C. Bill

Posted June 4, 2004 at 5:15pm

Ignoring pleas from city officials, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen said he will not ax a provision in the D.C. appropriations bill that blocks the use of local tax dollars to lobby for Congressional voting representation for the District.

The New Jersey Republican, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia, made his decision public Thursday, following a hearing on the city’s fiscal 2005 budget.

During the hearing, both D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and City Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) urged the panel to remove any riders from the legislation, specifically noting the prohibition on city government-sponsored lobbying for statehood and Congressional representation.

“I urge the subcommittee to pass a bill free of social riders that also impinge on democracy by denying the District Council and the mayor the authority, which is basic in a representative democracy, to spend locally raised tax dollars according to the wishes of our citizens,” Williams stated.

While Frelinghuysen said he would work to prevent any additional riders — “I should hope we have nothing more to inject into the bill,” he said — he refused to eliminate any of the existing mandates, including restrictions on the city’s needle exchange program.

“Those are issues that were put into this bill long before I became chairman,” Frelinghuysen said.

The lobbying prohibition is significant for voting rights and statehood advocates because it blocks the District from not only paying for private lobbyists on the issues, but also from paying related costs such as hiring staff and purchasing office supplies.

Additionally, the ban prevents the city from funding its Shadow Congressional delegation, a slate of two Senators and one Representative created in 1990 to specifically lobby for statehood. While the city provides office space for the trio, the positions are unpaid.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of D.C. Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that promotes Congressional representation for the District, said his organization will continue its efforts to repeal the ban.

“We have to keep fighting,” said Zherka, who criticized Frelinghuysen’s response. “If he doesn’t support riders … why doesn’t he remove them?”

In 2003, D.C. Vote, along with Common Cause and the law firm Arnold & Porter, successfully lobbied Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who chairs his chamber’s Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia, to remove the ban from that version of the spending bill, although it was reinstated during conference committee.

A DeWine spokeswoman said the lawmaker plans to strike the prohibition from the fiscal 2005 bill.