Loose Lips

See Nothing, Say Nothing

Reporters can be an annoying bunch,and the Wilson Building press corps is no different. LL and his colleagues pester and hector Mayor Vince Gray at every turn for answers about the allegedly vast illegal shadow campaign federal prosecutors say helped him beat Adrian Fenty in the 2010 election, to no avail. Wanna know what Gray knew and when he knew it? Tough. The mayor just ain’t talking, no matter how many times he’s asked, on orders from his lawyer Robert Bennett.

But Gray isn’t the only person facing thorny questions. Give the scope of the alleged illegality, the cadre of campaign workers and volunteers who spent countless hours during the summer of 2010 working to get Gray elected have some explaining to do, too.

After all, there seems to have been a lot of illegal stuff flying around. Last month, political operative Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty to helping funnel more than $650,000 from one of the city’s biggest health care contractors into the alleged shadow effort. In court records, the feds detail how Harris allegedly spent $128,000 of contractor Jeff Thompson’s fortune on signs, T-shirts, and stickers with “logos, graphics, and designs identical to those used by [Gray’s] campaign, which were purchased from the same vendors as materials purchased by the campaign.”

Harris also spent more than $200,000 hiring outside consultants, canvassers, and drivers, court records say, and then “tens of thousands” more on hotels and rental vans to accommodate the small army.

But despite all this alleged illegal campaign activity, a large number of Gray campaign aides, many of them near the top of the food chain, swear they never had a clue. Interviews with nearly a dozen former campaign staffers elicit, for the most part, a variation of the same response: We didn’t see nuthin’. (This group, it should be noted, doesn’t include some key top aides, like campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green and campaign finance director Reuben Charles, who didn’t return calls seeking comment.)

Several aides who spent a great deal of time at the campaign’s headquarters say the field operation, which would have been most likely to witness any shadow campaign efforts, was sealed off from the rest of the organization. The campaign rented a separate space for field next to the official headquarters on 6th Street NW near New York Avenue. There was little to no interaction between the two operations, aides say.

That next-door space was the domain of Lloyd Jordan, the campaign’s attorney, several high-level aides say. About a month before the primary, Gray personally tasked Jordan with taking over a faltering field campaign from David Dzidzienyo, a former union official, aides say. (Jordan says those aides are overstating his role. He says he was primarily the campaign’s attorney who took over “some operational management.”)

But while aides say they didn’t see anything at HQ, neither did several field operatives.

“All I saw was just normal, everyday campaign stuff,” says Ed Potillo, a Gray campaign coordinator in Ward 7. (The alleged shadow campaign’s efforts focused mostly east of the Anacostia River, according to people familiar with the investigation.)

“It was a shock like I can’t imagine,” says Juanita Britton, who coordinated volunteers for the Gray campaign and was frequently out at campaign events, about Harris’ guilty plea and the ensuing details.

Not all field operatives say they were in the dark. But those who saw something and are willing to say something are few and far between. Bernadette Tolson, a Ward 8 coordinator for the campaign, recently told the Washington Times there was both awareness and resentment among Gray supporters about paid workers. “We knew there was another campaign,” Tolson told the paper. “We could see it, and these people were being paid.”

Another aide tells LL shadow campaign workers were well stocked with vans, food, and special blue T-shirts that were off-limits to regular volunteers. Indeed, at some point during the summer, a crop of blue T-shirts with slightly different fonts from the official white shirts showed up. Some aides say they were told the campaign’s Ward 8 team printed the shirts. But Phil Pannell, who was active in Gray’s Ward 8 efforts, says supporters didn’t have the money to print their own T-shirts. Pannell says the Ward 8 group’s lack of money was a constant gripe; he threw a few fundraisers for Gray at Georgina’s, the bar formerly known as Player’s, to help. In any event, court records show Harris and crew paid more than $32,000 for 6,500 T-shirts.

Those field organizers who say they didn’t see any shadow campaign did, however, see a lot of Vernon Hawkins, a longtime friend of the mayor’s who LL and other media outlets have reported played a leading role in organizing the alleged underground setup. Hawkins, who has not spoken to the media and was not available for comment, was often at the ward organizers’ regular meetings held at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees public workers union headquarters on Kalorama Road NW.

Britton says Hawkins gave advice at some of the meetings about how to organize and motivate campaign volunteers. Ward 1 coordinator Lillian Perdomo says she wasn’t sure what Hawkins’ role was: “I know he was often around.” Another ward organizer says she was specifically told by Jordan “not to talk” to Hawkins.

In an interview with LL, Jordan says he might have told coordinators not to take cues from Hawkins because he had “separated” himself from the campaign.

Jordan has a vastly different take on the shadow campaign than federal prosecutors: He says there was no shadow campaign, only an independent expenditure that might have failed to file its campaign finance paperwork.

Jordan says he was “absolutely” aware that there were several independent campaigns supporting Gray, including those financed by public sector unions and one financed largely by developer Don Peebles, but that the official campaign had no responsibility to make sure any of them were following disclosure laws.

“I don’t think anything was hidden whatsoever,” Jordan says. He says he assumed that Peebles, who is close friends with Gray’s campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green, was financing activities the feds say were part of a shadow campaign.

Campaign records show that Peeble’s group, called the Coalition for a Better District of Columbia, focused its efforts entirely on a $100,000 mailer attacking Fenty. In a statement to LL, Peebles says the coalition acted in “complete transparency” and filed all its necessary paperwork.

Jordan says he’s annoyed with all the “Monday morning quarterbacking” that’s occurring two years after what was a very hectic and chaotic campaign. The aides who swear they were in the dark about the shadow campaign similarly describe the Gray outfit as a short-lived, disorganized mess, one where it was often unclear who was in charge.

So if the feds are right, and there was a shadow campaign, the world of people who knew about it was a very small one indeed.

  • iknewthehellbetter

    I was nowhere close to the Gray campaign and I knew a lot of what was going on within it. How? The campaign workers who volunteered daily and got nothing in return, who had to stomach the likes of Lorraine Green, and were tossed to the side of the road like roadkill immediately after the primary were suffering from diarrhea of the mouth and they spewed all the juicy, sordid details voluntarily. There is no honor among thieves and in this pack of pilferers, those snubbed by Gray, Green, Charles, and Co. think it an esteemed honor to tell and bare it all. Ward 8 got used and abused worst than anyone and the way Gray turned his ungrateful back on Stan Jackson, Bernadette Tolson, BusyBee Britton, Wendy Glenn, and others was a damn shame as hard as they all worked for him. Ward 7 has always been blind sheep for that Gray wolf so I don't feel sorry about him giving them his pasty ass to kiss for the third time with no return on their worthless investment. I'm in Ward 4 and I wanted Fenty to lose but I for damn sure didn't want Gray to win. I voted for Leo Alexander.

  • Leo Alexander

    Someone voted for me?


    Hey Leo, I would have too if I'd been voting FINE!!!!!

  • mizluvsco

    Well Suderman you've got some right and some highly relevant points wrong this time.

    1. The world of people who knew was very, very small indeed.
    2. Vernon Mush Mouth Hawkins was definitely separated from the campaign very early on (Self exiled was the impression).
    3. Peebles group of unknowns (didn't know who they were at the time) was elitist and seemed to think they were entitled
    4. You forgot to include Ms. Tolson's sour grapes disgruntled 'volunteer' syndrome, and the resentment she wore on her sleeve AFTER Lorraine Green through her under the 90 or 92 bus that dragged her ass back to SE. If she knew they were being paid she was in it more than she is willing to admit. Otherwise some of what she said may be true. She's a snake in the grass that bears watching so Lorraine Green must have peeped her hole card.

    1. Miss Busy Bee Britton reminds one of the police official in Casablanca. And she was IN ALL offices much more than she was OUT. She and her....well I'll leave out who it was....and just say her family, benefitted from the campaign in many ways, some of which could be considered questionable and right on the line leaning toward illegalities.Wonder what she did with all of that champagne she collected along with those email addresses at that party she gave. We were all appalled at the way she lured hard working campaign volunteers into her data bank toward the end giving us the false impression we'd be in a better position at headquarters when jobs got passed out. ROFLMAO here. Boy did she snow us.
    2. Lorraine Green and Reuben Charles probably beat Howard Brooks in the race to talk to the FEDS when the shit hit the fan. They didn't return your calls because they're probably under orders not to discuss their participation in the investigation with anyone, much less the media.
    3. And now Ole Clueless Himself: Sad to say I don't think he knew a lot of what was going on. It's not that he had his head buried in the sand ostrich style. He put too much faith in the Queen of Mean, Mrs Lorraine Green and Reuben O(utta) Here Now Charles. That woman and that man pulled the wool over Old Man Gray's eyes in more ways than you can imagine. She was more effective at it than his former CoS who is probably one of your biggest snitches. And smooth as black silk Charles left a path of decption all along route 66 East and back to Chicago trying to flim flam the Obama campaign.
    4. The FEDS are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, if they don't look into the shadow campaigns of each and every politician who received big money from Thompson, Peebles and any other special interest groups.
    5. The Washington Post and your paper and you, sir, are equally wrong for not delving into the $5 million shadow campaign of Adrian Fenty.

  • DC5

    Repeating your unanswered questions in frustration is NOT reporting... Volunteers and campaign workers have NO explaining to do to YOU... Just cause you declare it don't make it so.

  • noodlez






  • cutthecrap

    Leo Alexander is an egoistical blow hard. He'd be just as screwed up as Fenty and Gray. All talk and no action. And by the way, he ain't that "FINE".

  • cutthecrap

    @mizluvsco...some very good observations. However, you got it wrong on how much Ole Man Gray knew. Lorraine Green's old puzzy ain't that good for him to be that blinded. He is known as the ultimate micro-manager. His ego wouldn't allow him not to be in the thick of this mule dookie. People need to quit covering for him. He definitely wouldn't cover you if you needed it. Gray would sell his momma down the river to save his own azz.

  • topryder1

    Cutt, everything you say is absolutely true. They kept the legitimate campaign workers separate from the crooks. The only thing people knew is that many of the legitimate workers started getting fired the day after the primary.

    This turkey appointed more Fenty supporters to committees than he did his own supporters.

  • cutthecrap

    @topryder1...what LL needs to cover is the amount of Fenty appointees who have retained their jobs. I'd like to see a head count from each department. Better still, I'd like to see who was transferred from appointee to career. Do you think we will ever see that story? Example, DDOT is full of young, white, transplants. Gray's CoS is "still" white. Only this time he is a white male; not a fat, white, stank, drunken white girl. Putting Sheila Bunn in the mix as Deputy CoS was suppose to throw us off. Anybody can put together and circulate a weekly newsletter.

  • iknewthehellbetter

    cutthecrap - I like the hell out of the way you think. Nuthin but the truth!

  • Terry Miller

    I worked on the campaign in the field and I didn't know about any shadow campaign. When you are in the field you do not question where your food and water and transportation comes from, you just take it! In Ward 4, as far as I know we were all volunteers and we all worked our butts off. And we were all initially were given white T shirts, and then later in the campaign we were all given blue. Why would I think that these came from a shadow campaign?

    As for Jaunita Britton, I am sure she played favorites with her own people. I remember I went to a all campaign staff meeting called by Britten and everyone got these little gift bags as a Thank you, except the ward 4 workers. We got nothing! I was pretty mad at that. But what does that have to do with the alleged shadow campaign?

  • iknewthehellbetter

    cutthecrap - I almost think I know who you are but I'm not telling 'cause I don't want you to ever stop telling the truth! You're right! It's so sad but true about Sheila Bunn being just a figure head with an extensive email list. And where is Gray's old COS? I bet if Machen hoists her fat ass off that hen's nest, he can make an omelet for an army with all of Gray's golden goose eggs secrets.

  • mizluvsco

    Topryder1: Is that 1 who rides the 'bottom man'?

    Maybe he kept the Fentyites because they were the best ones for the job and if it ain't broke: Don't fix it.
    The poor man was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.
    He had a Black highly educated CoS who was placed there by Lorraine Green. That CoS probably resigned because she saw the handwriting on the wall and didn't want to be put in the position of having to lie to the feds for her friends. She also got a big fat $30k check at the end of the campaign and didn't want to give it back. After the f*d up way Green and Banks were hiring, Hell, I probably would have kept people in place too.

    It seems as if Lorraine Green was setting herself up to be the SHADOW MAYORETTE. She almost had a lock on the counting house door with poor misguided and deluded Sulaimon Brown at DHCF. She put herself, her daughter and her Amtrak mentor in position on all things related to the convention center, motion pictures, the Armory, DOES and much more. This is what that snake B. Tolson is so pissed off about. She thought she was tight enough with Green to get a plum spot (Probably related to DOES).
    The Queen of Mean also had her long time cut buddy Banks running things in DC Personnel AGAIN.

    I don't know what she whipped on Ole Boy, but I doubt if it was puzzy because Howard Brooks had that locked down.
    And I also doubt seriously that Gray {who has had (and still does have) his share of puzzy} needed to share any with Brooks. As a matter of fact, I never once saw them interact.

    YES GRAY IS GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY of poor judgment of character and poor delegation of duties. That White CoS of whom you speak turned on him in a heartbeat when he allowed Green to chose that first EOM CoS.

    I know for a fact he was not aware of some stuff Reuben O Charles was doing. What I fail to understand is why these azzwipes were allowed to continue sabotaging the campaign after the candidate was contacted and fixed the things I know he fixed. We always thought it was because nobody wanted to continue to report misdeeds to him for fear of being considered pests and/or snitches. They played his clueless azz like a fine tuned Baby Grand Piano. EVERY LAST ONE OF THOSE MOFOS. When that poor man looked up his entire legacy was in tatters before his term began.

    With so much bad luck at the start, and so much chicanery going on around him, I firmly believe and hope that the way he is handling his job means he's strong enough to come out of this shit smelling like the proverbial rose.
    The citizens of DC do not like it when entities that buy ink by the barrel try to tell us what to do at the polls.


  • cutthecrap

    @mizluvsco...you sure you weren't a member of Jim Jones cult down in Jonestown,Guyana. I swear I've heard that speeech before...right before everybody drank the kool-aid. I love it when Vince Gray supporters, past and present, have to eat crow right after he shows you his yellow crusty azz. Kool-aid doesn't sell a flavor called "RED". Quit trying to buy it!

  • mizluvsco

    ctc: Lost me on the: "RED". Quit trying to buy it!

    But that's okay. Don't really care as long as you read the post. Definitely not a member of the Jim Jones crew, have never seen the man's azz, didn't really get upset about not getting a job after seeing what a nightmare he was starring in and have yet to dine on crow. That part of your post slipped by me also. But let me know how it tastes when you get up from under topryder1 and have to eat a little of it yourself.

  • tony

    I can't believe people hate the Mayor because they did not get a freaking job.lol.

    I just don't get it because there are tons of young black professionals who do really well in this city, and they never sought a government job. They educated themselves and worked really hard. Many of them come from very poor backgrounds yet they took advantage of the opportunities that came their way.

    They do not depend on the Mayor or anyone else for their financial security. Instead, they depend on themselves and they make things happen for themselves. And they live a very good life.

  • mizluvsco

    AnPi: Suderman is down to do-nut holes.

    tony: Believe it. Some of those people acted as if EOM was an employment agency. Lorraine Green was one of the dumbest bitches I've ever seen in my life and Reuben Charles was one of the slickest. You can look at Mrs Green's face and see her malevolence. You can look (if you can find him) and see his narcissism.

    Her self-deluded I-have-arrived demeanor caused her to go WAAAAAYYY overboard with the corrupted power thing; and his I-haven't-arrived-but-I-act-like-it self-sense of importance was poorly camouflaged by his VERY EXPENSIVE WAAAAYYY OUT OF LINE WITH WHAT HE WAS SUPPOSE TO BE DOING WARDROBE.

    Can't wait to see how they'll fit in the investigation other than as star canaries.

  • cutthecrap

    @mizluvsco...you've got to be one of Vince Gray's ole pieces who still have a soft spot for him. Sounds like you may be a little jealous of Lorraine Green too. I have to give it Vince. Speaking of donuts, he must have worked the hell out of that jelly roll.

  • mizluvsco

    ctc, we've got to stop meeting like this, people will say we're in love......

    ....and Reuben??? He would have been just my style. Except he and Lorraine are two snakes under a rock. But you're almost right on the Vince thing, I have had an erotic dream or two about him. I must have this power thing because he's not the first powerful man I've fanticized about. What about you and Fenty?

  • JackinDC

    I was a volunteer on the Gray campaign.

    We volunteers knew there were some paid campaign Staffers but we did not know about a shadow campaign.

    The paid staffers were useless; the volunteers got Gray elected. For example, was an African-American paid-staffer named Tracey. He was from Philadelphia. He was useless. He was basically rude to the volunteers. A coupple of times, he got lost driving around DC and had to call the campaign office for diretions as to how to find his way back.

    Ms. Geri Hall, who was briefly Mayor Gray's Chief of staff, was paid $30,000 by the campaign, but she NEVER helped on the campign. None of us had heard of nor seen here until Gray named her chief of staff. We were surprised to see that she was paid $30,000 by the campaign.

    Another paid staffer was Reuben Charles, a citizen of Guyana. It's not clear what role, if any, he had. Rumour has it that he has been talking with the FBI and ron Machen's office. Might he be trying to avoid a deportation proceeding?

    Gray owes his volunteers a big Thank You and big apology.

  • mizluvsco

    Jackin DC, Those of us who have seen him since the election did receive an apology of sorts. He made it clear in so many ways that he was 'clueless' about some of Reuben Charles' chicanery until a few of the campaign volunteers brought some things to his attention and he corrected them immediately.

    The way I understand it, he asked Ms. Hall to resign when he found out about the unsavory hires and the $30,000 payoff she got. Once the hiring cat was out of the bag, he was made aware of the fact that she had not been seen during the campaign and that she was under the influence of Lorraine Green who was setting up her shadow mayorality by telling Hall whom to hire and where. Seems that was the beginning of the end of a long relationship between Mean Ms. Green and Nay Saying Gray. He ought to thank his lucky stars he ended it when he did or he would have probably been speaking into a wire with R. Machen and the FEDS listening in. I feel sorry for the man because he really came across as a decent sort of man the few times we saw him at sign wavings and events during the campaign.

    Always wondered how Reuben Charles snookered his way into the campaign. Don't know for sure, but Jeff Thompson and Charles are close buddies and they say Charles convinced the campaign to take Thomspson's money. With that motley crew, it must not have been a hard sale.

    Some people in Ward 6 gave some thank you parties for their workers, but if we other volunteers were invited, I didn't get an invitation. I also saw a thank you party for senior citizens on Channel 16. Not sure who paid for the parties, but I know the Mayor attended all of them, and thanked everybody for their campaign work.