Campaign-finance law rife with gray areas
A serious turn in the federal probe of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign and a recent trickle of subpoenas to D.C. Council members is delving into the tricky — and supposedly arms-length — role that candidates play at the roulette wheel of political funding and influence.
While council members’ campaign teams scour their records, Mr. Gray faces new scrutiny over the existence of a “shadow campaign” — and, if one did exist, the extent to which he knew about it.
“They say ignorance is generally not an excuse for violating the law, except when it comes to campaign finance,” said Meredith Mcgehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center in Northeast. “The problem for the candidate is, it can hurt you politically, but often the candidates are the last ones to go.”
The Washington Post on Thursday reported the existence of a parallel, offthe-books effort on the part of the Gray campaign to get out the 2010 vote, largely east of the Anacostia River. The report, based on campaign sources, suggested the effort was orchestrated by Vernon Hawkins, a longtime campaign consultant who was ousted as the director of the Department Human Services during the administration of former Mayor Marion Barry.
Mr. Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, declined to speak in detail about the investigation on Thursday, but described Mr. Hawkins as a “supervolunteer” who hung around and had no official role in the campaign.
“You get that in all campaigns,” he said.
Campaign-finance filings show small payments to Mr. Hawkins during Mr. Gray’s initial run to secure the Ward 7 seat on the council in 2004, and then a smattering of petty cash payments and $17,500 in consulting fees during Mr. Gray’s run for council chairman in 2006. No expenditures to Mr. Hawkins are listed in Mr. Gray’s 2010 filings.
While firm details about the Gray investigation are scant, federal prosecutors’ look at the council is a bit clearer. Investigators showed interest in donations from prolific contributor Jeffrey E. Thompson, his companies and his associates by sending specific records requests to the campaigns of at least six council members. Mr. Thompson is an accomplished accountant who holds a $300 million managed-care contract with the District through his D.C. Chartered Health Plan and has donated to almost all of the District’s sitting politicians.
“It means they turned up something. They kind of have to have that first little indication.” Ms. Mcgehee said of the subpoenas. “Everyone could kind of
Federal authorities have been reviewing D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign since last year.