Yard sign spend­ing casts a shadow on Gray

Printer draws feds’ scru­tiny

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY JEF­FREY AN­DER­SON

Agents from the FBI and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice this month vis­ited a Capi­tol Heights print shop whose owner says he re­ceived far less in pay­ments for yard signs in 2010 than D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray’s cam­paign of­fi­cials re­ported to city of­fi­cials, The Washington Times con­firmed this week.

Howard An­drews, owner of Drew Print­ing Co., said Mon­day that fed­eral au­thor­i­ties ar­rived at his shop at 7905 Cen­tral Ave. on March 1 armed with doc­u­ments and seek­ing an­swers. Af­ter re­view­ing his in­voices, he told The Times that Mr. Gray’s per­sonal cam­paign as­sis­tant, Stephanie Re­ich, co­or­di­nated the pur­chase of 14,000 yard signs and other cam­paign ma­te­ri­als for $55,174.

The cam­paign, he said, paid by checks signed by cam­paign trea­surer Betty J. Brown.

But the Gray cam­paign re­ported to the D.C. Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance ex­pen­di­tures to Drew Print­ing in ex­cess of $88,000, ac­cord­ing the of­fice’s records.

Pres­i­dent Obama has been tour­ing the coun­try this week tout­ing in­creased oil and gas pro­duc­tion num­bers dur­ing his time in of­fice — but his se­lec­tive quotes and fig­ures tell only part of the story.

Cit­ing sta­tis­tics show­ing an eightyear high in do­mes­tic oil and gas sup­ply, Mr. Obama says his ad­min­is­tra­tion has opened up mil­lions of acres to gas and oil ex­plo­ration across 23 states while gas prices have con­tin­ued to rise — so more drilling will do noth­ing to al­le­vi­ate pain at the pump.

“We’ve quadru­pled the num­ber of op­er­at­ing rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipe­line to en­cir­cle the Earth and then some,” he said. “So we are drilling all over the place — right now. That’s not the chal­lenge. That’s not the prob­lem.”

In mak­ing such sweep­ing state­ments, Mr. Obama has not ac­knowl­edged other facts and fig­ures that

“They asked me 10 dif­fer­ent ways if I took kick­backs,” Mr. An­drews said Mon­day re­gard­ing his visit from fed­eral au­thor­i­ties. “It’s tough out here, but I’ve got noth­ing to hide. I ain’t go­ing to jail for no one. I’m not tak­ing no kick­backs.”

In an email ex­change Thurs­day, Ms. Re­ich, who was chief of staff to Linda Cropp while she was D.C. Coun­cil chair­woman and is now chief of staff to the di­rec­tor of the D.C. Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices, con­firmed that she co­or­di­nated the pur­chase of the yard signs, but de­ferred to Ms. Brown on the dis­crep­ancy be­tween the amount paid and the amount re­ported to the cam­paign fi­nance of­fice.

“I gave my au­tho­rized re­ceipts and au­tho­rized ex­pen­di­tures to Betty Brown,” Ms. Re­ich wrote in an email. “I can­not speak to who re­ported ex­pen­di­tures to OCF.”

Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance of­fi­cials said the trea­surer is the only per­son be­sides the can­di­date who is au­tho­rized to file ex­pen­di­ture re­ports. Ms. Brown did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

Since tak­ing of­fice last year, Mr. Gray has been dogged by ac­cu­sa­tions that his cam­paign paid cash and promised a job to a mi­nor may­oral can­di­date to stay in the race and bash his op­po­nent. Those ac­cu­sa­tions have spawned a wide-rang­ing fed­eral probe of cam­paign-fi­nance ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that re­cently has en­gulfed D.C. contractor and cam­paign fundraiser and bundler Jef­frey E. Thompson.

Mr. Thompson, whose house and of­fices were raided this month by FBI agents, owns Char­tered Health Plan — the Dis­trict’s largest contractor, do­ing more than $300 mil­lion an­nu­ally in city busi­ness.

‘Shadow cam­paign’

On Thurs­day, news re­ports said in­ves­ti­ga­tors also have spo­ken to for­mer Gray cam­paign staff mem­bers who claim a “shadow cam­paign” was con­ducted out­side of­fi­cial cam­paign head­quar­ters on Sixth Street in North­west, where long­time Gray as­so­ci­ate and field or­ga­nizer Ver­non E. Hawkins some­times worked on a “vol­un­teer” ba­sis.

Mr. Hawkins was forced to re­sign as di­rec­tor of the D.C. Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices in 1996 af­ter the D.C. fi­nan­cial con­trol board took an un­prece­dented vote to re­move him from the city pay­roll, declar­ing an “emer­gency” char­ac­ter­ized by “wide­spread waste and abuse in the han­dling of city con­tracts,” The Washington Post re­ported at the time.

More re­cently, Mr. Hawkins was a di­rec­tor of the Union Tem­ple Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Corp., a pri­vate foun­da­tion af­fil­i­ated with Union Tem­ple Bap­tist Church in South­east Washington. The com­pany is a part­ner with a firm headed by megade­vel­oper and friend of the mayor W. Christopher Smith Jr. on a $20 mil­lion Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment-ap­proved project to re­de­velop a blighted public hous­ing project in South­east now known as Sheri­dan Sta­tion.

Mr. Hawkins did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

The visit by fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors to Drew Print­ing sug­gests that a pur­ported “shadow cam­paign” sep­a­rate from the of­fi­cial Gray may­oral cam­paign does not ac­count for the en­tirety of the closely watched case.

Vis­i­tors to Drew Print­ing might be con­fused by the fact that there is no sig­nage, no phone list­ing and no web­site. It is lo­cated in a strip mall in­side a store named Print De­pot, which Mr. An­drews said is owned by his son. On Mon­day, The Times ob­served an ar­ray of glossy night­club and party fliers on the counter along with cam­paign ma­te­ri­als for Ward 7 D.C. Coun­cil can­di­dates Bill Ben­nett and Tom Brown, who hap­pened to be there pick­ing up his yard signs that day.

The Mary­land State Depart­ment of As­sess­ments and Tax­a­tion’s web­site lists both Drew Print­ing and Print De­pot as en­ti­ties that long ago for­feited their au­thor­ity to do busi­ness in the state. The web­site says Drew Print­ing for­feited its sta­tus in 1991 for “fail­ure to file a per­sonal prop­erty re­turn,” and that Print De­pot for­feited its sta­tus in 2009 for the same rea­son. Mr. An­drews said he and his son are in the process of ad­dress­ing their reg­u­la­tory-com­pli­ance is­sues.

Sta­tus re­voked

The D.C. Depart­ment of Con­sumer Reg­u­la­tory Af­fairs shows that Drew Print­ing reg­is­tered as a com­pany in the Dis­trict in 1984 and has since had its reg­is­tra­tion sta­tus re­voked. The agency’s web­site shows no record of Print De­pot ever hav­ing been reg­is­tered in the Dis­trict.

Mr. Gray’s elec­tronic may­oral cam­paign fil­ings with the Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance show more than 20 ex­pen­di­tures to Drew Print­ing from April to Oc­to­ber 2010, to­tal­ing more than $88,000. The cam­paign of D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Kwame R. Brown made a sim­i­lar num­ber of ex­pen­di­tures to Drew Print­ing from June to Oc­to­ber 2010.

On Mon­day, Mr. An­drews said Mr. Gray per­son­ally called him af­ter an­nounc­ing his can­di­dacy and asked him to bid on the job. He said he pro­duced ap­prox­i­mately 14,000 yard signs at a cost of $3,700 per batch of 1,000, in ad­di­tion to posters, busi­ness cards, let­ter­head and en­velopes.

On Wed­nes­day, dur­ing a fol­low-up in­ter­view, Mr. An­drews said he didn’t do the sign print­ing him­self be­cause he lacked the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce an or­der of that size.

“I took the job in and farmed it out,” he said, ex­plain­ing that he paid a printer in Largo $1,900 per batch of 1,000 signs and an ad­di­tional $44,000 for the stakes, the cost of which was in­cluded in the amount he charged Mr. Gray.

Gray spokesman Pe­dro Ribeiro re­ferred ques­tions Wed­nes­day to Gray cam­paign of­fi­cials. Thomas W. Gore, the mayor’s cam­paign fi­nance man­ager, did not re­turn a call and email for com­ment.

Mr. An­drews, a Mary­land res­i­dent, said he dealt with Ms. Re­ich and had no deal­ings with Mr. Thompson or Mr. Hawkins. In light of per­sis­tent re­ports of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that ap­pears to be ex­pand­ing in scope, he ques­tioned whether the Dis­trict had flawed lead­er­ship.

“They need to clean house up there and start over again,” he said. “The way it looks, it don’t look good at all.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

PIP­ING UP: “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipe­line to en­cir­cle the Earth and then some,” says Pres­i­dent Obama, who is tout­ing in­creased oil and gas pro­duc­tion num­bers as he trav­els across the coun­try.

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