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Corruption Chronicles

D.C.’s Crackhead Mayor in Trouble Again

Marion Barry, best known as the mayor who starred in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack, recently updated his extensive criminal resume by accepting a gift from a “prohibited source” that does significant business with the District of Columbia’s government.

Barry has for years been a fixture on the D.C. Council and currently represents Ward 8, a predominantly black and notoriously crime-infested area. He served four terms as mayor before getting convicted on drug charges and serving jail time. He’s also pleaded guilty in federal court for failing to pay city and federal taxes and got in trouble for stalking an ex-girlfriend nearly half his age.  

The veteran D.C. politician has also been busted for illegally steering a bogus $15,000 city contract to a girlfriend and taking a cut for himself. One year Barry directed about $8.5 million in District funds to dozens of his favorite groups, including at least six “nonprofits” founded by him. To qualify for the money, the organizations had to be legally registered nonprofit groups and some of the incorporation papers were actually forged, according to a D.C. City Council investigation.

It’s as if there is no end to what this famously corrupt politician will do. Yet, a blindly loyal base has made the Democratic lawmaker a seemingly invincible fixture in D.C. government upon completing his drug-related sentence. It’s hard to imagine what his constituents are thinking when they keep reelecting him, or if they are even thinking at all.

This week the area’s mainstream newspaper reports that Barry violated legislative ethics rules by taking $7,600 worth of gifts from two businesses that have significant contracts with D.C.’s government. This is prohibited for obvious reasons, but we’ll spell it out; it could create a conflict-of-interest, especially in this case because one of the firms has a $4.6 million contract to modernize schools in the district Barry represents on the council.  

D.C.’s code of conduct provides exceptions to the gift ban, the news story says, when the item is of “little intrinsic value” such as greeting cards and award plaques, is “motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship” or is a prize, benefit or discount available to the general public. In this case, the construction companies evidently paid Barry’s personal bills, the article reveals, pointing out that it doesn’t meet the exception criteria.

Barry is hardly the only thug in D.C.’s famously corrupt government, which is known nationally for its never-ending saga of political scandals. Just last summer the council’s disgraced chairman, Kwame Brown, pleaded guilty to a federal felony involving bank fraud. Months earlier D.C. councilman Harry Thomas was sent to prison for stealing $350,000 in public funds meant for youth programs and before him Councilman Michael Brown (son of a corrupt Clinton administration official) got busted for money laundering.  

 


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