House Oversight Committee Does Gray a Big Favor
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said today that his committee has launched a "full investigation" into allegations made by the District's favorite 209-vote getting mayoral candidate, Sulaimon Brown, that Mayor Vince Gray's campaign illegally gave him money and promised him a city job.
Issa, a Republican from California, said in a statement that he'd instructed his staff to determine if the District "would be able to swiftly and fairly evaluate the merit of these charges and take necessary action if appropriate."
But the lack of cooperation from Gray's aides, Issa said, led him to believe that the District can't properly investigating l'affaire Sulaimon. "The initial findings of these efforts do not give me confidence that the District government can make this evaluation. As such, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has begun a full investigation to determine the facts and will report its findings,” says Issa.
House oversight committee investigators will now join staff from the Office of Campaign Finance and federal investigators (the U.S. Attorney's Office says it's assessing Brown's allegations) in looking into Brown's claims.
While on its face this may look like more bad news for Gray, it's probably one of the better things that could happen to the mayor in this whole Sulaimon mess.
After Gray won the September primary, he held a series of town hall meetings in each ward where he'd begin the forums with long and kinda boring stump speeches. It seemed to LL that early on Gray stumbled upon the fact that the audience really responded to any mention of the District being treated unfairly by Congress, and how he was going to stand up and fight against those injustices. By the last town hall forum, the District v. Congress was a major part of the stump speech.
Now Issa, who probably should have been content to let the U.S. Attorney's Office do its thing before jumping in, has given Gray a near-perfect foil. In Robert McCartney's Post column today, former Mayor-for-life Marion Barry advises the mayor on how to handle the current scandal. Barry's advice essentially boils down to this: create an us v. them dynamic between Gray and the media and some councilmembers who were friendly to former Mayor Adrian Fenty.
That strategy might work in some parts of the city, but it wouldn't allow Gray to be the "one city" type mayor he wants to be.
But with Issa, it's a whole different dynamic. This is a town that voted 92 percent for President Obama, and Issa is the congressman who declared that Obama is "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." Gray hardly has to even do anything to win sympathy from his constituents, even those west of the park, with Issa as his chief persecutor.
In a statement, Gray's office essientially said, "bring it on" in response to Issa's announcement.
"Mayor Vincent C. Gray reiterated his position that he welcomes any investigation into the matter ... Mayor Gray believes that there are sufficient investigative bodies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, addressing and responding to Mr. Brown's allegations. Congressional involvement is not likely to illuminate any additional issues or information."
LL asked Issa's spokesman if any type of political considerations were discussed before making the decision to investigate. He said they were not. That's not surprising, but it's good news for Gray.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery