Is Vince Gray Fucked? And Other Questions
LL was out interviewing Ward 5 Councilmember-elect Kenyan McDuffie today when news broke that Mayor Vince Gray's de facto mayoral campaign treasurer, Thomas Gore, is almost certain to plead guilty in the near future to destroying evidence and using Gray's campaign funds to make illegal payments to former minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown. Lucky for you, dear reader, LL is now back in the office to break it down:
How Bad Does This Look For Gray?
Horrible. Court records say Gore destroyed a "spiral notebook" containing records of payments to Brown the same day that Brown went public in the Washington Post alleging that he got cash payments and the promise of a city job in return for attacking then-Mayor Adrian Fenty on the campaign trail. They also say Gore used Gray's campaign money to make illegal payments to Brown's campaign.
Gray's always denied knowing of or approving any Brown-related shenanigans, and Gore's court records don't prove otherwise. But Gore's close association with Gray sure puts a big dent in the mayor's image, if not his story. Gore is a longtime friend of Gray who handled the campaign's day-to-day finances. It's not clear how close they've been since the election, but a Wilson Building source says Gore was spotted in the mayor's suite as recent as this past winter.
If Gray's story pans out—he didn't know anything about the Sulaimon payments—then Gore's case will be yet another glaring example of Gray's misplaced trust in a top deputy. If Gray did know Gore was paying Brown with campaign money, then the District will have a mayor with zero credibility.
Gray, who used to take any and all opportunities to profess his innocence in l'affaire Sulaimon, has been referring questions about Gore's case to his lawyer, Robert Bennett, who declined to comment.
It's too early to say for sure, but it's highly doubtful that Gore's soon-to-be guilty plea will signal the end of federal investigators' year-plus probe into Gray's 2010 campaign. Brown never accused Gore of any wrongdoing, but instead named Gray's campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green and campaign aide Howard Brooks as the go-betweens who gave him cash envelopes. Neither has been charged with wrongdoing, and Greene has always denied Brown's allegations. Mysteryman Brooks has kept quite, but there have been reports that he's cooperated with authorities.
Gore, too, appears to be cooperating with the feds. His attorney, Fred Cooke Jr., tells LL that Gore's been answering the questions put to him by law enforcement agencies but hasn't been wearing a wire or doing undercover work.
So is Gray Fucked?
Again, it's too early to say yes or no for sure. As LL and others have noted, the Sulaimon saga appears to be just a small part of what the feds are looking at. The bigger issue is an alleged off-the-books shadow campaign with ties to D.C. Medicaid contractor Jeffrey Thompson, whose house and offices were raided by federal agents earlier this year. Gore's charging documents make no mention of that alleged shadow effort or Thompson. And Cooke says Gore has "nothing to do" with any alleged shadow campaign.
If Gray's problems remain limited to Brown, then the ramifications may not be so bad. But if bigger, Thompson-related shoes start dropping, who knows what could happen? Either way, it looks like the U.S. Attorney's Office has finally started making its move.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery