Newsletter: Rooting Out Public Corruption
The District of Columbia stands out as the lone jurisdiction in the United States that does not have a local prosecutor or other office specifically responsible for prosecuting local public corruption and related matters that impact the integrity of honest government services. While the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAO DC) has jurisdiction over local offenses involving public corruption, the preferred course throughout the country is to empower a locally accountable prosecutor to investigate and charge such offenses. That’s why our office recently announced a new Public Corruption Section to focus on a broad array of wrongdoing that impacts the public’s confidence in honest District government.
We are fortunate to have hired Jonathan Kravis, a highly-regarded former federal prosecutor, as Special Counsel, and he will recommend how our office should develop the new Public Corruption Section, as well as what its priorities should be. Mr. Kravis, a former law clerk to both D.C Circuit Judge Merrick Garland and United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, has earned his exceptional reputation for ethically and successfully prosecuting public corruption cases at the Department of Justice and the USAO DC. Most recently, Mr. Kravis successfully prosecuted Roger Stone for obstruction of Congress and other related offenses.
This important development is OAG's latest effort to protect the interests of District residents and ensure fairness in District government.
Karl A. Racine
Win: Financial Relief for Washington Sports Club Members
Washington Sports Club members will no longer be subject to unreasonable terms during the COVID-19 emergency because the company has now committed to freeze memberships, provide credits, and allow free cancellations. This policy change follows a letter AG Racine sent demanding the company stop charging customers for memberships they cannot use during COVID-19. Residents can report any unfair business practices to OAG by calling (202) 442-9828, emailing Consumer.Protection@dc.gov, or submitting a complaint online.
Help for D.C. Residents During COVID-19
This week, AG Racine joined Mayor Bowser for her daily COVID-19 press conference to provide updates on OAG’s enforcement of emergency protections for DC consumers, workers, tenants, and vulnerable residents. OAG is here to help, to hear residents’ concerns, investigate their complaints, and to answer questions. Find resources for food assistance, healthcare, workers, immigrants, children and families, and more by visiting oag.dc.gov/coronavirus, the D.C. government resource page, and Legal Aid Counsel’s comprehensive non-legal resource guide.
Local Autonomy = Local Courts
Last week, AG Racine filed two briefs in court opposing the U.S. Attorney’s policy to prosecute local gun cases in federal court. AG Racine argues that this policy undermines the District’s autonomy and that harsher federal sentencing will disproportionately harm African Americans and youth in the District. It also denies offenders access to data-driven public safety and sentencing reforms that address problems of overincarceration and racial inequities. The District has strong laws to punish felons in possession of a gun and must be allowed to enforce them without interference.
Fighting Trump Cuts to Food Assistance
Once again, the Trump administration is trying to make significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps lift people out of poverty. In response, AG Racine co-led a 22-state coalition to stop these cuts and ensure nearly 3.1 million vulnerable Americans nationwide, including over 8,000 District residents, don’t go hungry. Earlier this year, AG Racine led a coalition that successfully blocked previous SNAP cuts and is committed to protecting SNAP again during a time when millions of people are suffering from job losses due to COVID-19.
Protecting Residents from Illegal Debt Collection Practices
The last thing that District residents who are experiencing financial hardship during COVID-19 need is to be harassed by debt collectors. AG Racine alerted residents that emergency legislation passed by the Council temporarily prohibits creditors and debt collectors from filing or threatening new collection lawsuits, repossessing vehicles, and visiting consumers. If you believe a company is violating the emergency prohibitions on debt collection, contact OAG by calling (202) 442-9828, emailing Consumer.Protection@dc.gov, or submitting a complaint online.
Strengthening Consumer Protections for Funeral Services
As deaths from COVID-19 rise, bereaved families must be shielded from unknowingly overpaying for funeral services. AG Racine led 22 states in urging the Federal Trade Commission to better protect grieving consumers by requiring funeral service providers to publicize prices online, standardize pricing disclosures, and safeguard consumer funeral funds from misuse and fraud. Use OAG’s free funeral rights resource.
Join OAG's Twitter Chat on Emotional Wellness
Every Tuesday, OAG hosts an #AskDCOAG Twitter chat for students to engage with local and national experts on important issues to young people and families. So far, OAG has engaged students on how to manage intra-family conflict while social distancing, spotting and stopping child sex trafficking, how to prevent cyberbullying, and more. Join us on May 5 at 12:00pm ET for our chat about emotional wellness during COVID-19 by following @AGKarlRacine on Twitter!