Bowser: FreshPAC Had Become a Distraction

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that a controversial political action committee (PAC) formed by her close allies had become a distraction.

After mounting criticism, the independent committee called FreshPAC announced this week that it would close. The PAC came under fire for raising large sums of cash with firms and individuals doing business with the city.

Bowser made the comment on a conference call with reporters Friday morning. She is currently in China, wrapping up a week-long trade mission.

Her statement that FreshPAC had become a distraction was the same reason cited by FreshPAC treasurer Ben Soto for shutting down the committee.

The PAC had raised $340,000, with a goal of $1 million. Its founders took advantage of a law that allows political-action committees to accept unlimited contributions during non-election years. The committee received $10,000 donations from people who do business with the city or are seeking city business. 

The committee had threatened to campaign against opponents of the mayor.

Independent D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has said that FreshPAC was blatant "pay-for-play politics" that citizens oppose.

Bowser, a Democrat, said the appearance of impropriety was taking away from her administration's "important work."

Washington Post columnist Colby King said FreshPAC has already done its damage.

"This was an effort, not so cloaked effort, to get around the law and to play politics in the city the way we've seen it before in the way it ought to be condemned," he said.

"It's an affront to the city; it's an affront to clean government, and she's going to pay a price for it," he said.

Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, another harsh critic of FreshPAC, said it was a reason to keep closer tabs on the Bowser administration.

"The whole thing was rotten from the beginning, and it was rotten in its implementation," she said.

Bowser previously defended FreshPAC, saying, "[The PAC] will support an agenda that people voted me to get done. There's no attempt to hide. The disclosure and sunlight is how everybody is aware. They're operating how the law contemplates."

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