MAY 23, 2012
How appropriate that the District of Columbia’s scandal-plagued mayor, Vincent Gray, was in Sin City when his close friend and top aide got criminally charged for destroying records to cover up a corruption scheme that took place during his 2010 campaign.
Gray has been embroiled in a variety of controversies throughout his political career, which includes a lengthy tenure on the D.C. council before taking over as mayor last year. As council chairman he got busted for using official stationery to solicit donations for the Democratic Party and for having a politically-connected contractor renovate his house. Gray used official council stationary to solicit a $20,000 contribution from a cable company to help pay for Democratic Party activities, in violation of measures forbidding taxpayer resources from being utilized for political reasons or to raise cash for a particular party.
As council chair Gray also had a mega developer that does strictly large commercial projects renovate his house. At the time the company had a $300 million real estate contract in an area that Gray represented and initially the then-councilman denied any work had been done on his 2,800-square-foot home. He only came clean after a reporter dug around and gathered evidence of the shady arrangement.
More recently Vincent, who once headed the District’s Department of Human Services, has been accused of operating a seedy cash-for-campaign scheme during the 2010 mayoral race. Federal authorities began investigating Gray after a disgruntled staffer (Sulaimon Brown) revealed that members of his mayoral campaign gave him envelops stuffed with cash and money orders to stay in the race and maintain a verbal assault on incumbent Adrian Fenty. Vincent has hired Bill Clinton’s sex-scandal lawyer (Robert Bennett) to defend him.
This week the feds charged Vincent’s close friend and campaign treasurer, Thomas Gore, for destroying records associated with that illicit operation and for making illegal campaign contributions. The capital-area’s largest mainstream newspaper alludes that it could be the tip of the iceberg in a wide-ranging federal investigation of Gray’s mayoral campaign. The report also reveals that Gray was in Las Vegas “working to attract business to the District” when his pal got slapped with the charges.
Even after becoming mayor, Gray has come under fire for hiring an army of senior staffers with lucrative salaries while the city suffers through a painful $400 million budget shortfall. Among Gray’s highly-paid employees are the son of his chief of staff and the daughter of a close adviser. This sort of thing is commonplace in a local government that has mastered the art of making national headlines for the many transgressions of its elected leaders.
Who could forget Mayor Marion Barry—elected to the D.C. Council four times since his drug conviction—starring in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack? Barry, who represents Ward 8, has since been in trouble for failing to pay his taxes, violating the terms of his probation and stalking a former girlfriend. Yet he remains a fixture in D.C. government.
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