Opinion: Gray Skies Are Not Clearing in D.C.

A federal case filed yesterday against Thomas W. Gore, a top official from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign, raised more questions than it answered.

While it is impossible to know where the ongoing investigation will lead, the inquiry is not likely to end with the four charges brought against Gore, who served as treasurer to Gray’s 2004 and 2006 campaigns in addition to his role on the mayoral campaign.

One thing we do know, however, is that Gray has already weathered the storm of scandal and proved his ability to govern regardless of accusations and rumor amidst a media feeding frenzy.

In documents made public by the U.S. Attorney, Gore was charged with destruction of evidence and three counts of making illegal campaign contributions. He is expected to plead guilty in court today.

The destruction of evidence by Gore is quite curious because it happened at the same time the Washington Post first revealed that Sulaimon Brown, who was also a candidate in the race that featured Gray and then-mayor Adrian Fenty, was in possession of money orders he claimed to have received from senior Gray campaign officials.

According to papers filed by the U.S. Attorney, Gore destroyed a spiral notebook in which details of the illicit monies given to Brown were recorded. It is believed that Gray campaign officials funded Brown because they considered attacks he directed at Fenty to be helpful to the Gray effort.

When allegations about the illegal payments first surfaced, Gray defenders ridiculed Brown as unreliable, unstable and bitter as a result of being fired from a job he was given in the Gray administration. Seasoned consultants who worked on the Gray election effort pointed out that Brown’s campaign antics were nothing more than a sideshow.

However, one must now wonder if the saga put forth by Brown has merit.

To date, none of the facts that have come forward have debunked Brown’s basic assertion that he was paid by Gray campaign bigwigs. In fact, payments detailed in the Gore indictment mirror those in Brown’s campaign finance reports and are in keeping with accounts he shared with the press and testimony he provided to the D.C. Council.

What has not been proven, though, is the most damning aspect of his story: that Gray, then a candidate, promised Brown a job if he was elected mayor.

Gray has maintained that Brown was only promised a job interview.

The mayor has also been steadfast in insisting that he knew nothing of any illegal or inappropriate campaign activity. In other words, if rules were broken -- as now it appears they were -- the violators did so behind Gray’s back.

In early 2011, shortly after Gray was sworn in as mayor, Brown landed a job in the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance. He did not last long in that position.

After being fired, Brown became a local media sensation. He crashed a mayoral press conference convened to discuss his termination, held court with reporters and famously arrived to a hearing in sunglasses which he refused to remove during testimony.

That behavior and other details about Brown’s past make him a less than credible witness in front of potential jurors.

Nonetheless, investigators have made it clear that the probe into Gray’s 2010 campaign continues.

There is no indication that the latest revelations implicate Gray or will hamper his ability to govern. At bare minimum, though, a longtime ally and campaign aide -- Thomas W. Gore -- has brought a pox on Gray’s house.


Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to chuckthies@gmail.com or tweet at @chuckthies.

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