<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Mon, 15 Sep 2014 05:40:02 -0400 Mon, 15 Sep 2014 05:40:02 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[D.C. Assistant Fire Chief Stepping Down]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 01:00:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20140912+Fire+Chief.jpg

An assistant fire chief with the D.C. Fire Department is stepping down.

Dr. David Miramontes has submitted his letter of resignation, which takes effect Oct. 15.

Miramontes is the Medical Director for D.C. Fire and EMS. His resignation comes two months after Chief Kenneth Ellerbe retired.

Ellerbe has already been replaced by interim Chief Eugene Jones.

<![CDATA[Obama Asks for International Help Against ISIS]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:42:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/211*120/2014-09-12_1340.jpg NBC News political writer Carrie Dann reports that President Obama is now seeking international support against terrorist group ISIS, after successfully managing to get the majority of Americans and Congress on board. Dann also talks about Hillary Clinton's plans to reach back out to Iowa Democrats in order to secure their votes.]]> <![CDATA[Firefighter's Union Endorses Muriel Bowser]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:55:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/muriel+bowser+iaff36.jpg

D.C.'s firefighter's union has decided to endorse the Democratic nominee for mayor.

The International Association of Firefighters, Local 36 (IAFF Local 36) announced their endorsement of Muriel Bowser Wednesday morning.

"Our team of dedicated Local 36 members grilled the potential candidates on many of the issues that face out local every day," 2nd Vice President Daney Hudson said. "One candidate stood above the rest as an advocate for all the things necessary to move our department in the right direction."

Bowser has pledged to make sure the department is "fully equipped and trained."

Most unions in the District have been siding with Bowser -- most recently, she got the support of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, which represents about 175 local unions in the region.

But one union is backing her opponent and fellow councilmember David Cantania.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which represents about 3,500 officers, announced their endorsement of Catania last month.

<![CDATA[Majority of Americans Want Military Action Against ISIS]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:40:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007806115_1200x675_327330883997.jpg NBC News political writer Carrie Dann reports that 61 percent of Americans are calling for military intervention against the terrorist group ISIS.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: An Ending and a Beginning…]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:08:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vincentgrayclose1.jpg

We may be at the beginning of the end of the shadow campaign scandal.

And — we can hope — we’re at the end of the beginning for the current campaign for mayor.

First, Mayor Vincent Gray returns Friday from China to face the media after disturbing news that his 2010 campaign driver has pleaded guilty in that long-running shadow campaign scandal.

Mark Long, the mayor's campaign director of advance operations and personal driver, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy for collecting and concealing illegal campaign contributions.

Long is not just another guilty plea (there already had been five). He may prove to be the linchpin that brings prosecutors closer to Mayor Gray and what he did or didn’t do during that sullied campaign.

Long acknowledged driving Gray to secret meetings with shadow campaign financier Jeffrey Thompson, handling phone calls from Thompson to Gray, and collecting secret cash from Thompson to give to Gray. In short, Long corroborates the time and place in which prosecutors say Thompson and Gray participated knowingly in the shadow campaign.

Thompson pleaded guilty in court this spring and Gray went out of his way to call Thompson a "liar."

Will Gray now say that one of his most trusted campaign aides is a liar, too?

Gray never has commented publicly on two other close associates and longtime pals, Jeanne Clark Harris and Vernon Hawkins. They both pleaded guilty to their roles in the shadow campaign.

Are Hawkins and Harris liars, too?

Back when he was still running for re-election, we casually talked with Mayor Gray about his situation. We both acknowledged that overall, he had a more than competent record as mayor.
But as we pointed out then, Gray is something like a track star. He was running a good race and running the city as best he could. However, he may have cheated at the start line with his campaign. And stuff like that gets you DQ'd (disqualified).

Some who support or even feel sorry for the mayor hope he can limp to the finish line of Jan. 2, 2015, when the new mayor takes over. They may see Gray riding off into the sunset, never charged.

But it may be just a dream.

"The 2010 mayoral campaign was rife with corruption," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. "Our work continues."

■ Ready, set, go. This week is important for another reason besides Mayor Gray’s return to face more scandal. The D.C. Board of Elections passed its deadline this week to disqualify any candidates for mayor. And on Friday, the board will pick the order in which the candidates will appear on the ballot.

At that point, mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser no longer will have an excuse to publicly ignore her opponents or act, as some say, like she’s already been elected mayor.

Since her Democratic primary win last April 1, Bowser for more than five months has refused to engage opponents for November. That’s even though independent David Catania and Carol Schwartz each turned in enough petition signatures to easily quality for the ballot. Bowser has hung on to a self-imposed technicality that those candidates weren't "official" until the board certification that comes Friday.

Several groups that wanted to have candidates forums this summer were told "no" or discouraged from even trying to plan something. Bowser also has indicated she doesn’t expect to run a gauntlet of endless, small neighborhood candidate forums, believing she was vetted heavily in the primary.

Bowser, Catania and Schwartz at this point have agreed to participate in a "candidate conversation" on the American University campus Sept. 18. And they've agreed to participate in Kojo Nnamdi’s WAMU event Oct. 2. That forum will be held at the new NPR headquarters on North Capitol Street.

We’ll watch for other opportunities for you to see or hear the candidates. Assuming there are some.

■ A final word. Jerry Phillips is finally out of the street. The 75-year-old veteran journalist died Aug. 29. He was honored at a funeral Saturday in Northeast Washington at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, one of his favorite places on Earth.

Phillips was a 20-year presence on NBC4's Sunday morning "Reporters' Notebook" program. He often sought to express public opinion by referring to "people in the street" who thought this or that.

Well, those "people in the street" have lost a true friend.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: File Photo]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Mayors' Race: What You Need to Know]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 11:50:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/224*120/wilson_04.jpg

Playing catch-up when it comes to this fall's D.C. election? We've compiled everything you need to know about where to vote, how to register, who's running, and what else is on the ballot.

Can I vote early?

Yes, if you're registered to vote, you can cast your ballot at selected locations between Oct. 20 and Nov. 1, except Sundays, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

However, your regular polling place may not offer early voting, so find all early voting sites here. Early voting begins Oct. 20 at just one site: One Judiciary Square (441 4th St. NW).

On Saturday, Oct. 25, eight more early voting sites will open across D.C. and will be open daily through Nov. 1 (except on Sundays).

How can I register to vote?

There are three ways to register:

1. At a voter registration agency, such as: the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the D.C. Office on Aging, the Department of Parks and Recreation, or the Department of Human Services. If you're registering at any of these agencies, applications are due 30 days before Election Day.

2. By mail. In this case, you would also need to complete and mail the application form at least 30 days before Election Day. You can find the online registration form here. The mailing address is listed below:

D.C. Board of Elections
One Judiciary Square
441 4th St. NW, Suite 250 North
Washington, DC, 20001

3. In person at the D.C. Board of Elections office. There is no registration deadline when you submit an application at the board's office -- but that if you are casting a regular ballot in an election, you must register before early voting begins for that election, which is about 15 days prior.

Is there a cut-off date to register to vote?

You may register to vote at your precinct's polling place on Election Day. If you are registering at any of the agencies listed above, or via mail, applications must be submitted 30 days before Election Day.

Who is running for mayor?

Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) emerged as the winner of the Democratic primary election in April against Mayor Vincent Gray, whose campaign was marred by a fundraising scandal, and a handful of other candidates.

Councilmember David A. Catania (I-At Large) is considered among the leading candidates for mayor. Should he win, he would be the first white mayor and the first openly gay mayor in D.C. history. A former Republican, Catania left the party in 2004. He says he has a record of "delivering on issues that people care about."

Carol Schwartz, a former four-term at-large D.C. councilmember, is running as an independent. She has made four unsuccessful attempts for mayor; her last bid was in 2002, in which she ran as a Republican. She touts a lengthy record and an education plan that would call on a network of retired educators to volunteer as tutors and mentors.

Nestor Djonkam, an independent candidate, has participated in various political campaigns and currently serves as chair of Cameroonian American Outreach, a nonprofit organization in D.C., as well as the chair of the Nestor for Hope Program, which serves the less fortunate in D.C., according to his mayoral website.

Bruce Majors, an openly gay Libertarian Party candidate, ran against Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in an attempt to take her seat in 2012. He accrued less than six percent of the vote; however, his ballots were enough to qualify the Libertarians as a major party.

Faith, who goes by one name, is a D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate. This is the 90-year-old’s ninth mayoral bid over the span of three decades. "We've become the international business brothel of the world," she said when asked by the Washington Post why she keeps running. "I feel that Washington makes Vegas look like the Vatican."

What else will be on the ballot?

Voters will also choose:

Photo Credit: Andy Jones]]>
<![CDATA[Obama's Strategy Against ISIS]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:31:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-09-08_1329.jpg President Obama will talk to congressional leaders about ISIS on Tuesday. NBC's Carrie Dann discusses Obama's strategy to fight ISIS, as well as the big issues facing Congress this fall.]]> <![CDATA[Ex.-Gov. Sobs as McDonnells Found Guilty]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 18:16:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/mcdonnell-guilty-AP977255973421.jpg

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been found guilty of most of the public corruption charges they faced in a marathon trial centered on lavish gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman.

The former governor has been found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges against him. Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell has been found guilty of nine of the 13 charges against her.

It was a bombshell ending to a trial that included the dissection of the former first couple's marriage, testimony that Bob had moved out and was living with a priest, and testimony that Maureen had begun frequently texting and emailing the businessman in the case, Jonnie Williams, who wanted help promoting his dietary supplement.

Three of the McDonnells' five children clutched each others' hands and prayed before the verdict was announced, breaking into sobs as their parents' guilty counts were read aloud.

The couple's son Bobby McDonnell looked at his father with tear-glazed eyes as the former governor's head collapsed into his hands.

Bob McDonnell is "broken" and "devastated," said defense attorney Henry Asbill, who added that he would appeal the verdict.

The government had accused the McDonnells of doing special favors for Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc., in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.

Courtroom observers said two jurors wiped their eyes as the verdicts were read.

As co-defendants, the former first couple was separated in the courtroom, with three lawyers sitting between them. Maureen McDonnell teared up, but appeared composed compared to the emotional reactions of her husband and children.

The McDonnells didn't look at each other as the verdict was read. They left the Richmond courthouse together but got into separate cars. It was a marked difference from the rest of the trial, which verged into soap opera territory as defense lawyers suggested that the McDonnells' marriage was so broken they could not have conspired to obtain gifts, trips and loans from Williams.

Throughout the trial, Bob McDonnell had appeared confident, telling reporters repeatedly that he was sure he would be exonerated and was putting his faith in God.

"All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord," he said in a brief statement as he left the courthouse Thursday with Maureen, before they got into separate cars.

McDonnell, who was once considered a rising GOP star and potential vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney in 2012, now faces, along with his wife, up to 30 years in federal prison when they're sentenced in January.

"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the Commonwealth and its citizens," said Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "Public service frequently requires sacrifice, and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have no choice but to prosecute the case."

Bob McDonnell is the first former governor of Virginia to be convicted of a crime. The commonwealth had long had a reputation for clean politics, a reputation shattered in the five-week McDonnell trial.

Political analyst Bob Holsworth called it "a day of infamy in Virginia."

The Verdict, Count by Count

Bob and Maureen McDonnell were each charged with 13 counts in a 14-count indictment:

  • In the first count against them, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud for accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

  • The next three charges, counts 2-4, involved accepting checks from Williams: On counts 2 and 3, the McDonnells were both found guilty of honest-services wire fraud for accepting a $15,000 check to pay a caterer for their daughter's wedding, and for accepting a $50,000 loan check for MoBo Real Estate, a company the former governor operated with his sister.

  • On count 4, Bob McDonnell was also found guilty of a count of honest-services wire fraud for a $20,000 wire transfer for MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty on that charge.

  • On count 5, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right for the gifts and loans they received.

  • The McDonnells also faced six charges of obtaining property under color of official right, counts 6-11: On counts 6-8, they were found guilty of three charges of obtaining property under color of official right for a $50,000 check to Maureen, for the $15,000 check to the wedding caterer, and for a $2,380 golf outing.

  • On count 9, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for a $1,424 golf outing. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • On count 10, both McDonnells were found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $50,000 check to MoBo.

  • On count 11, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $20,000 transfer to MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • Only Bob McDonnell was charged with count 12. He was found not guilty of making false statements on a TowneBank loan application.

  • In count 13, both McDonnells were found not guilty of making false statements on a PenFed loan application.

  • Only Maureen McDonnell was charged with count 14. She was found guilty of obstruction of official proceeding for a handwritten note to Williams.

They will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2015.

Inside the Testimony

The trial centered on the testimony of the former governor and Williams, the prosecution's star witness. Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand.

Williams was granted immunity for his dealings with the McDonnells and possible securities fraud violations, which had been investigated by a separate grand jury. He testified that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells to secure their help promoting and obtaining state-backed research for Star Scientific's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc. Williams intended to share the results of that research with doctors to gain their support of the product.

Prosecutors claimed the former first couple had an "unconscionable amount" of credit card debt and presented testimony that they were eager to accept gifts from Williams, including a $6,500 Rolex watch that Maureen gave Bob for Christmas, a vacation at Williams’ luxurious home on Smith Mountain Lake outside Roanoke, use of Williams' Ferrari and a shopping spree for designer clothes and accessories for Maureen.

Testimony showed Williams loaned $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell that she used to pay down credit debt in 2011. He also loaned $50,000 and $20,000 to MoBo Real Estate, a small company that Bob McDonnell and one of his sisters ran to operate two beach properties.

Prosecutors also said Williams paid $15,000 in catering expenses when one of the McDonnells' daughters got married. And they claimed Maureen had developed a close relationship with Williams, exchanging more than 1,200 texts and calls over a nearly two-year period, including 52 in one day.

In his defense, Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing more than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Before the indictment, he had apologized for what he described as bad judgment and said he had repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but denied breaking any laws.

A key part of the defense strategy was the claim that the McDonnells couldn't have conspired, because their marriage had deteriorated to the point that Bob McDonnell had moved out and was now living with a priest, who is a family friend. Maureen McDonnell's lawyers called Williams her "favorite playmate."

Both the prosecution and the defense called Maureen volatile and emotional. One prosecution witness called her a "nut bag." Bob McDonnell himself said his wife didn't take well to the role of first lady, calling her handling of behind-the-scenes matters "a disaster." Testimony revealed staff members at the governor's mansion had threatened to resign en masse.

Judge: 'Can't Take Another Second'

After lengthy days of intense testimony -- on day four, the judge in the case said he was stopping testimony because he "can't take another second" -- the jury faced the task of deciding the McDonnells' guilt or innocence.

Judge James R. Spencer issued lengthy instructions to the jury Tuesday morning, including the warning that the testimony of a witness who is granted immunity must be more closely examined than testimony of other witnesses.

The heightened scrutiny was required to determine whether the testimony of the immunized witness is "affected by self-interest," Spencer said.

To be found guilty, Spencer said, a defendant must understand the nature of the conspiracy and deliberately join it.

However, Spencer said a conspiracy does not have to achieve its goals, which could have undercut a defense claim that Williams never received anything of substance, including the research he took preliminary steps to seek.

He also said an agreement need not be stated explicitly by the conspirators and that it didn't matter whether the defendant would have done those favors absent a bribe.

Spencer also told jurors -- who heard from three character witnesses, two for Bob McDonnell and one for his wife -- that "evidence of good character alone may create a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[First Three Count Verdicts Revealed in McDonnell Trial]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:47:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/mcdonnell-AP568314940756_0.jpg The first three verdicts were revealed Thursday after the McDonnell trial ended. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged in a 14-count indictment with doing special favors for Jonnie Williams, the CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for $165,000 in gifts and loans.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[McDonnells' Guilty Verdicts: "Sobbing Began"]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:45:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dcwrc_2014-sobbing-started_1200x675_325300291551.jpg Charles James describes the McDonnell's reaction in the courtroom to multiple guilty verdicts being read: "They dipped their heads, they were silent, and then the sobbing began." ]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: More Scandal…and the ’Skins]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:34:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Tom+Lindenfeld.jpg

Summer’s over.

Here are a couple of Labor Day weekend matters that disrupted our relaxation.

■ Scandal. With more than a few years in the journalism business, you’d think political surprises would tend to become ho-hum.

They don’t.

More than a few journalists and assorted others are SMH (“shaking my head”) at the ugly turn of events for master political consultant Tom Lindenfeld.

Democratic mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser abruptly and publicly dumped her veteran adviser last week as soon as Lindenfeld’s name publicly surfaced in a federal criminal investigation into the 2007 Philadelphia mayor’s race.

Pennsylvania prosecutors are tracing allegations that a $1 million loan was funneled through Lindenfeld’s consulting business to aid the ultimately failed mayoral campaign of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who finished fourth in the city’s Democratic primary.

“I’m quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia today,” Bowser said in a statement just hours after the Washington City Paper’s Will Sommer broke the news. “I have the highest expectations of transparency from my campaign team; Tom no longer has a role on the campaign.”
Lindenfeld, who has a movie-ready personality and a career resume of local and national campaigns including for a man named Barack Obama, has been golden in D.C.

Lindenfeld guided the 1998 campaign for Tony Williams. He did the same for Adrian Fenty in 2006 and tried again in 2010 but we know how that turned out. He was expecting to get back in the winner’s circle with Bowser in 2014.

In 2007, while he also was working that Philly mayor’s race, Lindenfeld had guided Bowser’s winning first run for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat as Fenty’s designated successor. And Lindenfeld was deep into voter identification and turnout efforts for the current Bowser campaign. In midsummer, the gruff and quotable consultant faded from the campaign without public comment.

And now he is out.

Contacted over the weekend by NBC4, Lindenfeld declined comment — something so unusual. So again, we’re SMH.

■ ’Skins back to RFK? The owner of the Washington region’s storied NFL football team has created the chance for the biggest sport “jump ball” in recent history. (And yes, we’re purposely mixing a basketball phrase in here.)

The “jump ball” is Dan Snyder’s public declaration on Comcast SportsNet that he is considering building a new domed stadium in either the District or the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Let the competition begin. In other words, FedEx Field is toast. Snyder has never liked it or its location.

Most observers believe the District’s underused RFK site is Snyder’s favored location for a 65,000- to 75,000-seat stadium. The era of megawatt seating is over. There’d be standing room for maybe another 15,000 or so fans.

Every D.C. mayor since Williams has said they’d bring the team back to the city under the right circumstances. Translated, that means the team would have to pay for the stadium construction; no more city gifts like the Nats stadium for the Lerners. The city would still spend millions on site preparation.

There are two big obstacles beyond the issue of financing.

The people who live in the neighborhoods flanking the stadium want to be included in the area’s redevelopment. They want neighborhood retail, shopping and plenty of park space, not parking lots. The Capitol East families and other neighborhoods want to benefit from any development, not suffer from it.

Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, one of the city’s most unabashed supporters of getting the team back in town, says all of the needs and wants of the neighborhoods can coexist with having the ’Skins back. But the neighborhoods might as well be called Missouri — you’re going to have to show them.

And last, but nowhere least, is the team name. The city leaders are on the record: They want the name changed or it’s a deal-breaker. Politically, it would be hard, if not impossible, to get the city to buy into the controversy surrounding the name.

We’ll end on an upbeat note. The team owner has said publicly he will “never” change the name.

He may be disliked by many people for many reasons, but Snyder is a smart businessman.

“Never” may be more negotiable than many of us think.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

<![CDATA[Obama's Foreign Policy in the Spotlight]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:07:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007712594_1200x675_324411971586.jpg With President Obama's trip to Estonia this week, his foreign policy is in the spotlight. He's facing two big challenges: Russian forces in Ukraine and the fight against ISIS. NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray has more on some of the criticism facing the president in the action he has taken so far.]]> <![CDATA[Eric Cantor Starts New Job on Wall Street ]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 09:21:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/450452130.jpg

Former Congressman Eric Cantor is starting a new job on Wall Street.

Cantor will join the Moelis and Company investment bank as vice chairman and managing director.

"In his new role, Mr. Cantor will provide strategic counsel to the Firm’s corporate and institutional clients on key issues. He will play a leading role in client development and advise clients on strategic matters," the company said in a press released issued Tuesday.

Cantor will also sit on the company's Board of Directors.

Cantor stepped down as House Majority Leader and resigned his seat in the House of Representatives last month, telling The Richmond Times-Dispatch that he wanted to make sure his constituents had a voice during the "consequential" lame-duck session.

Cantor lost to Dave Brat, an underfunded, Tea Party-backed opponent, in his Republican primary in June.

Cantor, 51, was a seven-term House veteran who before his defeat had been seen as a potential rival -- and likely successor -- to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Though he had a conservative voting record, he was distrusted by some tea party supporters who suspected he might be too eager to reach compromise on immigration legislation.

Photo Credit: WireImage]]>
<![CDATA[Consultant Off Bowser Campaign After Philly Scandal Surfaces]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 19:55:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Tom+Lindenfeld.jpg

A high-level consultant to D.C. mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser is no longer working for her campaign after he and his company were publicly linked to another mayoral campaign scandal.

Tom Lindenfeld -- a veteran strategist for national and local campaigns, including several D.C. mayoral races -- helped Council member Bowser win the April 1 Democratic primary and was on the team for the November election. Now Lindenfeld is out of Bowser's inner circle.

His company surfaced in a complicated campaign scandal involving the 2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D), with allegations of an unreported million dollar campaign loan and misuse of federal grant funds.

Bowser declined to comment to News4 on Lindenfeld but told the Washington City Paper, which first disclosed the Philadelphia story, "I'm quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia. ... Tom no longer has a role on the campaign."

Sources tell News4 Lindenfeld -- normally talkative with media -- quietly left the Bowser campaign in midsummer. He declined to comment to News4 over the weekend.

Independent mayoral candidate David Catania said the Lindenfeld resignation and Philadelphia scandal concerned him.

“Mr. Lindenfeld has run all of Ms. Bowser's campaigns, and the fact he's been engaged in shadow campaigns in other jurisdictions raises questions about how he runs elections generally,” Catania said.

There have been no allegations of any wrongdoing in any of Bowser's campaigns.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

<![CDATA[What's Next in Syria?]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:33:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-08-29_1231_001.jpg President Barack Obama is weighing his options on potential options against ISIS in Syria. NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray has more on what the overarching strategy is on fighting ISIS, and how that might translate in Syria.]]> <![CDATA[Former D.C. Council Candidate Gets 60 Days in Jail]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:04:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/court-shutterstock_811910148.jpg

A former candidate for the D.C. Council was sentenced to 60 days in prison Thursday for filing a false statement on a campaign finance report.

Jeff Smith, now 40, ran for the Ward 1 seat of the D.C. Council in 2010 but ultimately lost. He admitted that Jeffrey Thompson -- the D.C. businessman at the heart of multiple instances of illegal contributions -- channeled more than $140,000 to his campaign.

In June, Smith pleaded guilty to a felony charge of filing a false statement. He was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison, with all but 60 days suspended.

Smith will also serve a year of probation upon his release and must pay a $10,000 fine.

He admits to providing a budget to Thompson in spring 2010, seeking $140,975 for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts for his campaign.

Between March and September of that year, Thompson channeled funds through his companies to provide more than $140,000. Authorities say at least part of the money was spent on Smith's campaign services and materials.

According to law, $500 is the maximum that a person or entity can contribute to a candidate seeking a ward seat. That total covers both the primary and general elections in aggregate.

"Jeff Smith now faces incarceration because he secretly financed his campaign for the District of Columbia Council with more than $140,000 from one of the district's biggest contractors," said U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Machen in a release Thursday. "....Despite all his illegal spending, Jeff Smith lost the election, and now his criminal activity has been exposed."

Thompson has previously pleaded guilty to illegally funneling money to multiple D.C. and national campaigns. He has not yet been sentenced.

"We remain determined to hold accountable all those who benefited from Jeff Thompson's illegal campaign spending," Machen said Thursday.

Six others have also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the illegal campaign contributions.

A seventh, former D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown, has admitted that his campaign committees had secretly received money from Thompson. He has pleaded guilty to charges in an unrelated bribery investigation and recently reported to a federal prison in Alabama.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Maureen McDonnell's Defense Rests in Corruption Trial]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:39:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/edt-453005582.jpg

The defense for Virginia's former first lady rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the public corruption trial against the former first couple of Virginia.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell's eldest daughter took the stand in her mother's defense Wednesday morning. Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky portrayed a difficult relationship between her parents as she grew up -- one that didn't improve over time -- and said her mother had a "mild obsession" with businessman Jonnie Williams.

While her father was in law school, her mother was waitressing with three children at home, Zubowsky said. "I just knew we didn't have much money."

Her mother would buy things and then hid them from her father "until the bill came, and then there'd be an argument," she said.

Zubowsky testified that her father was around less and less after he entered politics, and for him, "kids were a priority and my mom came last."

To cope, her mother would drink and take long baths, Zubowsky told jurors. "I think she was depressed, so she'd try to escape," she said.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are accused of accepting more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from Williams, then the CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.

Defense attorneys have suggested the couple could not have conspired to provide special favors to Williams while McDonnell was in office because their marriage was crumbling and they were barely talking.

Zubowsky said her parents struggled after entering the political spotlight. "I think they thought they were ready.... The fantasy of what they thought it would be like was a lot easier to accept than the reality....," she said.

Zubowsky testified she watched communication between her parents decrease and arguments escalate.

On a vacation at Camp Pendleton, after a fight between her parents, her father confided in her about her parents' relationship, something that had never happened before.

"He actually opened up and said, 'I don't know what do do anymore. I can't make her happy anymore. I don't know what to do'.... It was a new low he reached," said Zubowsky, who is expecting the McDonnells' first grandchild.

She said during frequent fights between her parents, her mother would always raise her voice. "I've never in my whole life seen him raise his voice," she said of her father.

During a break, her mother cried and supporters consoled her, and her father appeared to wipe a tear from his eye, Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported.

She also testified that her mother had a "mild obsession" with Williams.

When asked if Williams and her mother were good friends, Zubowsky said yes. When asked if they were business associates, she said no.

Among the gifts, trips and loans Williams lavished on the family was a $10,000 monetary wedding gift to Zubowsky.

Asked when she returned the money, Zubowsky had an icy reply: "When I realized Jonnie himself was a criminal."

Prosecutors immediately objected.

"As a defense attorney that is what you hope for, because for all intents and purposes the question was asked, the answer was given, and while there was an objection, the answer was already out there, and the adage that you can't unring that bell certainly proves true," said lawyer Charles James, who was observing the trial.

Zubowsky was also asked about a tool shower held for her soon-to-be husband, Adam Zubowsky, in October 2012. She said that when her mother arrived at the event, she explained that Williams wanted to give the couple a special gift but couldn't attend because his wife was ill.

Zubowsky said Williams called during the party and, over speakerphone, informed her that he wanted to get a generator for the young couple. Some days later, a Michael & Son contractor called to say he wanted to take measurements for a full house generator.

Zubowsky said her reaction was, "What kind of generator is this?"

She said she'd expected the gift would be a small generator from Home Depot or Lowe's. But after the contractor visit, Zubowsky said Williams' administrative assistant called to explain the logistics were too complicated and that Williams would send a $10,000 check instead.

What was her reaction to a check of that amount?

"I was overwhelmed. I thought that was a very large amount of money but we also put it in perspective," she said, explaining that she knew Williams was wealthy and that he had planned to fly in his private jet to the tool shower, which would cost more than $10,000.

She said the couple deposited the check into a savings account and never touched it until they decided to return the money.

The prosecution later asked Zubowsky whether it was right for her family to take the gifts, asking, "Isn't it true ... that you thought it was overboard and a little inappropriate for your family members to be taking these things?"

"Yes," she said.

Lawyers for the couple wrapped up their case Wednesday. Prosecutors called two rebuttal witnesses and could call another Thursday. Closing arguments could come Friday.

Earlier Wednesday, Maureen McDonnell's friend April Niamtu became the first wtiness to testify in Maureen's defense.

Niamtu told jurors that when she and Maureen met in 2009, Maureen was "passionate" about nutraceuticals.

Maureen McDonnell's attorney is trying to show that the former first lady of Virginia had an affinity for healthcare products and suggesting them to friends, and that she wasn't only focusing on Williams' products.

On Wednesday morning, defense for Bob McDonnell rested. The former governor testified in his own defense for more than four days, but Maureen McDonnell's lawyer said the former first lady's case should take about three hours.

Once it wraps up, that will leave only closing arguments and instructions from the judge before the case goes to the jury.

Bob McDonnell wrapped up his time on the witness stand Tuesday by acknowledging using bad judgment, but firmly denied criminal wrongdoing.

The prosecution grilled McDonnell on the specific timeline of when he received the gifts and loans from Williams, trying to make the case that it lines up with McDonnell promoting Williams' company and its tobacco-based supplement Anatabloc.

But on the stand, McDonnell was adamant that the money he received from Williams in 2012 was in the form of loans for MoBo, the small real estate company he owned with his sister -- not for him personally and not in exchange for favors.

McDonnell got stern at times, telling the prosecutor, "If you're suggesting that I got a $50,000 loan for MoBo in order that I get Mr. Williams' calls returned then you're completely off base."

The prosecutor responded, "No sir, that's not what I'm suggesting."

McDonnell insists the loan from Williams was a business transaction between friends, not payback for his help in promoting Anatabloc.

Prosecutor Michael Dry asked point blank, "You knew that March 6, 2012, loan was really a personal loan to you?"

McDonnell replied loudly, angrily: "Mr. Dry, that is absolutely false! It is a loan to MoBo."

A harsh portrait of Maureen McDonnell has emerged through weeks of testimony. Former governor's mansion staff members have said that she was quick to anger and seemed uncomfortable in her role as first lady.

As he entered the federal courthouse in Richmond last week, Bob McDonnell said seeing that portrayal of Maureen was "very difficult." 

He told reporters, "No one likes to talk about their marriage in front of the entire country, but this is part of the case." McDonnell also testified that he moved out of the home he had shared with Maureen the week before the trial.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

Photo Credit: The Washington Post]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Nothing’s Out of Bounds...]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 05:56:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

If there were any doubt that schools would be a significant issue in this year’s mayor’s race, Monday cleared that up.

Using opening day of the new school year as a backdrop, independent mayoral candidate David Catania threw more cold water on the plan to redraw school boundaries for the first time in 40 years.

He said that, despite hard work by a lot of people, he thinks the boundary change will send too many students to lower-performing schools. Even if you like the school boundary changes — and many don’t — Catania said he didn’t think the school bureaucracy could handle the change in time for the school year that starts just 12 months from now.

“For these reasons, among others, I intend to take action to delay implementation of the [boundary changes] until at least school year 2016-2017,” the chair of the council’s Education Committee said in his announcement. That’s two years from now.

As of Monday night, Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser had not weighed in on the final boundary plan that Mayor Vincent Gray announced Aug. 21.

Last spring, Bowser initially said the Gray proposal, still under development, contained some “very good ideas.” Some parents and others reacted badly to that proposal, disliking the cluster plans and lotteries included. A few days later Bowser clarified that she would support only “neighborhood school assignment.”

As Catania has sought to make schools a focus of his campaign, Bowser also has changed positions on whether she would commit to retaining Chancellor Kaya Henderson. The Ward 4 council member initially said she would not discuss potential appointees until winning the mayor’s race. But in June, Bowser told supporters she would keep Henderson.

Catania has praised Henderson but has kept to his position that he won’t discuss jobs unless and until the people give him the job as mayor. Catania reiterated that last week when he was asked about another popular official, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier.

But Catania has made school reform his central issue. Although only a fraction of voters have children in the public or charter schools, they tend to be very active in their communities.

In a move that his critics call overtly political, Catania has spent the past 18 months visiting 144 of the city’s nearly 200 schools. Catania meets with students, parents and school officials. At the very least, it provides him with a heck of a contact list. Although Catania seems to be outflanking Bowser on education, she’s not standing still. Her website says, “Improving our school system remains the single most important thing we have to do as a city.” She says there is a “crisis” in the middle schools.

While Catania passed legislation directing $80 million to schools with more at-risk students — a break in the long-used per pupil formula that treated every student the same — Bowser backed free Metro rides to eliminate one reason children don’t get to school.

Independent Carol Schwartz issued a statement praising the thrust of the latest school boundary plan while criticizing parts of it. Neither she nor Bowser has joined Catania’s call for delay.

However school reform shakes out in this campaign, you can expect to hear a great deal about it — and nothing’s out of bounds. We’ve come a long way from the control board era and its stumbling effort at school repair in the 1990s. Mayors Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty really got the school reform movement going, and Mayor Gray has embraced it, too.

The next mayor will have no choice. It’s just a question of how aggressive that mayor will be.

■ Looking up, up, up. Although official numbers will come later, Chancellor Henderson was touting a great first day of school on Monday.

“We are going big this year,” Henderson said in stats-filled statement that said initial enrollment of about 47,000 students is the highest in five years. Charter schools account for about 38,000 other students.

Henderson noted the school system has instituted a host of classroom-level improvements. In part, she said, the schools have hired an additional 300 teachers, 29 new counselors, 24 new librarians, 13 social workers and six new coaches. (We’re sure there’s a partridge in a pear tree somewhere in there, too.)

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

<![CDATA[School Boundary Changes Not Ready: Two Mayoral Candidates]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:14:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Woodrow+Wilson+HIgh+School+DC.jpg

The two leading candidates for mayor in Washington, D.C. say the plan to change school boundaries for the first time in 40 years is moving too fast.

Current D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has worked on the plan for more than a year.

"We're going to continue to work with the community, let people know what's fully in this plan," Gray said. 

Council member Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee for mayor, believes Gray's plan is "not ready" and will "exacerbate educational inequality."

"It lacks the necessary budgetary and leadership commitments to bring about a truly fair neighborhood school assignment policy. I cannot accept these recommendations," Bowser said in a statement released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Council member David Catania, chairman of the council education committee and an independent candidate for mayor, announced Monday that he would seek to block the changes, adding that too many schools are unprepared for the boundary changes that are to take effect in September 2015.

"There are a whole lot of unanswered questions and additional work that needs to be done," Catania said. "You're essentially sending some schools up to fail by virtue of how these schools are being rearranged."

Catania said he may seek legislation postponing the changes until 2016 or later if necessary.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Catania Wants to Delay School Boundary Changes]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:09:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Woodrow+Wilson+HIgh+School+DC.jpg

A key D.C. Council member said he’ll seek to block the first change in city school boundaries in 40 years.

Council member David Catania, chairman of the council education committee and an independent candidate for mayor, said school officials and too many schools are unprepared for the boundary changes that are to take effect in September 2015.

“I have maintained all along that I cannot support a plan that moves students from higher performing schools to lower performing ones,” read a statement from Catania. “Yet the final recommendations do just that. In addition, the recommendations are silent as to how we intend to improve those lower performing schools. Asking parents and guardians to take this leap of faith without more is asking too much.”

Catania said he may seek legislation postponing the changes until 2016 or later if necessary.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Ed Gillespie Touts Blue-Collar Roots in New Ad]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:07:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-08-22_1405.jpg In a new ad, U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie touts his blue-collar roots. Gillespie, a Republican, is challenging Democratic Senator Mark Warner. NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray has more.]]>