Washington Post Editorial: More on Gray Campaign Fundraising Issues

More questions about Vince Gray’s mayoral campaign

By Editorial, Published: July 19

CONFRONTED WITH a series of unsettling disclosures about his campaign for mayor and the start of his fledging administration, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has had some stock answers. “Missteps” were made; he wasn’t aware of wrongdoing; he couldn’t recall certain events; he put his trust in others. So his reaction to the latest disclosure is disheartening but not surprising.

“If mistakes were made, the campaign should be held accountable,” was the statement he released Tuesday in response to revelations of questionable money transactions in his campaign last September to unseat then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). An investigation by The Post’s Nikita Stewart found instances in which money donated above the $25 limit for cash contributions was improperly converted into money orders, for which there are higher limits. The review found $56,000 donated through 233 money orders; most of the money came from the city’s taxicab industry, although there were some cases in which donations were made under the names of people who insisted they didn’t make the contributions. Mr. Gray said he did not authorize the practice. Revelations about the money orders — which could constitute violations of campaign finance laws punishable by fine or imprisonment — come as the U.S. attorney is probing allegations by failed mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown that he was paid (sometimes in money orders) and promised a job in return for political attacks on Mr. Fenty. Mr. Gray has said he only promised Mr. Brown a job interview and was not aware of any payments.

The use of money orders for campaign donations is rare; Mr. Fenty’s campaign, which raised nearly $5 million compared with Mr. Gray’s $2.7 million, recorded just 11. Most donors use checks or credit cards; cash is harder to track and that’s one reason that it is restricted. Mr. Gray said he entered the race late and so his campaign was “truncated” and “chaotic.” How does that explain the extra effort — actually going to a store and paying a fee — to convert cash into money orders? If it wasn’t done to get around the cash limits, what explanation is there?

Particularly troubling is the account by Nathan Price of the Professional Taxicab Drivers Association of a meeting attended by Mr. Gray in which a bucket was passed around the room to collect cash — “money was flowing” — for him. Mr. Gray said he spoke at the event but doesn’t remember the cash solicitation. Since becoming mayor, Mr. Gray has taken a couple of steps sought by the drivers, including unseating the head of the taxicab commission whom drivers reviled because he helped engineer the switch from zones to meters. Never mind that Leon J. Swain Jr. had proven his integrity by cooperating with a federal probe into cab corruption. No explanation was given for his dismissal, save the mayor’s desire to go in a new direction.

If Mr. Gray is, as he says, uninvolved in any wrongdoing, there is still the question of his judgment in picking people to entrust with important duties and in dismissing qualified officials while hiring unqualified relatives of supporters. In his statement he expressed regret that “unresolved issues from the campaign continue to surface.” It seems there is more to regret than that.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

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