2012 was a busy year at the federal courthouse for the District government. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen lined up nine guilty pleas from D.C. politicians or their associates. They include former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., and three people who helped him steal more than $350,000; former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown and his brother Che Brown, who both pleaded guilty to bank fraud; and three aides to Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign, who admitted either to lying to the feds about payments to nuisance candidate Sulaimon Brown or being part of an elaborate $650,000 “shadow campaign” the feds say illegally helped Gray get elected.
But as productive as 2012 was for Machen & Co., there are still plenty of holes in their body of work. In the Thomas case, the feds say three organizations gave Thomas kickbacks, but they’ve only prosecuted representatives of two. The feds charged Brown with a misdemeanor charge for knowing his brother paid individuals more than $50 in campaign cash, a violation of city laws. But Che Brown inexplicably wasn’t charged with any campaign-related crimes.
The biggest incomplete, though, is the federal probe of Gray’s 2010 campaign. Despite Jeanne Harris pleading guilty to assisting in a $650,000 shadow effort, the feds haven’t brought charges against anyone else involved, including Jeff Thompson, the District contractor who allegedly funded it. Harris also pleaded guilty to being part of a straw donation scheme that Machen says has been going on for a decade. It’s highly unlikely she could pull such a scheme off entirely by herself, yet she’s the only one on the hook so far. Machen’s been investigating the mayor for nearly two years. If he’s going to charge him on anything, one has to believe it’ll either be soon or never.
Add in the news that the feds are investigating possible bribery related to the D.C. lottery contract, as well as poking around the inner workings of the city tax office, supervised by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, and 2013 could see even more trips from the Wilson Building up Pennsylvania Avenue to Prettyman.