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. It also calls for the expulsion of any councilmember who is convicted of a felony, although district voters would have to approve that provision.
Several amendments that would have strengthened the bill were either withdrawn or voted down. Councilmembers pledged to work on possible changes before it comes up for a final vote in two weeks.