The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval today to an ethics bill that would restrict political spending and require more disclosure of that spending. The bill also would create a tougher ethics board to fine violators.
The bill passed on a voice vote after Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. sat through hours of debate without speaking.
Thomas, whose home was raided Friday by the FBI and IRS, is under federal investigation for allegedly spending $300,000 in city government funds on a lavish personal lifestyle. Reporters besieged Thomas several times in the hallway, but he said his lawyers told him not to talk.
The ethics bill will go up for a second and final vote in two weeks. Several council members said they would try to strengthen the bill to ban outside incomes of council members and to abolish $40,000 "constituent service funds" that some complain are just political slush funds.
Council Chairman Kwame Brown, himself under a federal probe for his 2008 campaign spending, has promised to have a final bill before January.
The bill would create a new, three-member ethics board empowered to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and to impose fines.