Loose Lips

Vernon Hawkins, Man of Many Budgets


At his plea hearing last week, shadow campaign operative Vernon Hawkins described how, with help from Jeanne Clarke Harris and alleged financier Jeff Thompson, he planned the budget for the off-the-books effort to elect Vince Gray as mayor. But that wasn't the only campaign budget Hawkins was shaping in the summer of 2010.

According to campaign emails and former campaign workers, Hawkins was also involved in discussions about the budget of the legitimate campaign to elect Gray.

In a July 5, 2010 email obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, campaign consultant Johnny Allem wrote to Sam Brooks, a one-time Gray campaign aide, about the campaign's proposed field operations budget. "Budget is pretty much David and Vern," Allem wrote, referring to Hawkins and David Dzidzienyo, the campaign's field operations manager. By then, Hawkins had already met with Harris and created a draft form of the shadow campaign's budget, according to his statement of offense.

Allem tells LL that he doesn't remember writing the email, but confirms that Hawkins was involved in planning the campaign's budget. "He certainly had input to the budget and certainly made budgetary plans at different times," Allem says.

A 2010 Gray campaign consultant speaking to LL on condition of anonymity says the field budget proposed by Hawkins and Dzidzienyo was extensively cut (Dzidzienyo didn't respond to a request for comment). Brooks, in another email, characterized Hawkins' budget as "a joke."

Hawkins' involvement in both budgets, though, raises more questions about the overlap between Gray's on-the-books campaign and the shadow campaign. The shadow campaign was housed next door to Gray's campaign headquarters, according to Hawkins, and the illicit effort's Get-Out-the-Vote coordinator worked on the same floor as the Gray campaign's Get-Out-the-Vote coordinator.

William Lawler, Hawkins' attorney, says Hawkins advised both campaigns. Still, he minimizes his client's role in the budget planning. "Vernon was not a final decision maker in either instance," says Lawler.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • drez

     "Vernon was not a final decision maker in either instance," says Lawler.
    Likely because the candidate was.


    Working on a campaign and an independent expenditure at the same time is against the law, but Sam Brooks did it anyway.

    Read the email https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/777831-07-06-3.html

    Where have we heard this story before?

    Sulaimon Brown conspired with Gray campaign officials to accept bogus campaign donations.

    Sulaimon ended up with a plum District government job.

    Sam Brooks has a plum District government job.

  • truth hurts

    Word has it Hawkins was old school regarding budgets. He'd simply write down generic proposed expenses by category (e.g., transportation) and arbitrarily assign proposed costs to each category. Hence, Brooks' exasperation after reviewing Gray's "budget" for field operations.

    Note Brooks' nonchalant email discussion about Gray's campaign coordinating/using "independent" PAC money. Pretty sure all that coordination was illegal.

  • drez

    Seems likely, doesn't it.

  • Huhj

    Why has this story been gutted? What gives? Half the story and comments gone!

  • Natsfan1001

    gray's 2010 campaign was not illegal in part. it was wholly unlawful.

    The Shadow Campaign was not a secret off-shoot. It was the campaign. The offices of theShadow Campaign and the :legit" campaign were next door! The staffers e-mailed each other! Of course, they also communicated orally.

    They prepared budgets! Yet, we are to believe that Vernon Hawkins, Gray's old friend, was a rogue. operating out there without any knowledge of the real campaign? It's not believable.

    And we are also to believe that Vince Gray didn't know anything about the $650,000 Shadow Campaign? It's not believable.

  • Will Sommer

    @Huhj Story and comments look the same to me. Let me know what you're seeing and, if the problem's still there, we'll get it fixed.

    If you're looking for today's earlier story (which also had the same graphic, so the confusion's understandable) it's here http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2013/08/23/emails-pac-may-have-paid-for-poll-at-gray-campaigns-request/

  • Intrigue

    Brooks daddie's lawyers probably threw a hissy fit. So, the field budget is slashed late in a game where the opponent is known for the strength of his ground game and yet all manner of hard and soft assets are deployed in the field anyhow. Red flags must have been everywhere. Tom McMahon was running this show wasn't he? He didn't notice? He didn't bring this to the attention of the candidate? Impossible to believe. Someone had to have thought it beyond being a joke but rather tantamount to suicide against Tom Lindenfeld and Adrian Fenty. A seasoned pro like McMahon would never have sanctioned such a stupid blunder and certainly never have just kept it from the candidate. He ran Howard Dean's campaign for g'd's sake. The word had to have come from an authority higher than the gazillion dollar campaign manager and that would leave only the candidate.


    Read the July 5, 2010 email written by Sam Brooks.

    In his own words Brooks admits he was working on the Gray campaign and at the same time he was coordinating with an independent expenditure and making plans to form a PAC.


    Sam Brooks now has a plum $140,000 job in District government.

    Sound familiar?

    Sulaimon Brown conspired with the Gray campaign to accept bogus campaign donations. Sulaimon ended up with a plum District government job.

    Sam "Sulaimon" Brooks.

  • Wellllll!!!!

    Re no. 7 - New (to me, anyhow) names in this game.
    Who is Brook's daddie and who is Tom McMahon?
    'Ran Howard Dean's campaign for God's sake.', and what does that tell us?

    Re no. 8 - But Sulaimon Brown didn't KEEP his plum government job for whatever reason.

    If getting plum government jobs after working in campaigns was a sin or a crime, there wouldn't be many top tier campaign workers. In most instances that is why we have top tier talent in government jobs. Both local and national. Likewise, if the Jeff Thompson roots didn't run so deep (locally and nationally), all of this hoopla might be understandable. But then, of course, IT DOES run deep locally and nationally, doesn't it?

    My honest question is: Why, after all of the obvious and KNOWN Fenty/Nickles $80m plus shenanigans, is the small potatoes 'amateur hour' $653k Vince Gray machine being singled out?

    I really don't understand it. Would somebody please explain it without accusing me of gross ignorance and malfeasance? Also, will the usual foul mouthed Fentyites please refrain from answering. I'm requesting serious and informative answers here.

  • The Thinker

    Wellll, I've been seriously thinking about your honest question and hopefully have some informative answers. The prosecutor didn't go after KNOWN Fenty/Nickles $80m plus thievery either because Nickles is white and Fenty is half white OR because Fenty/Nickles didn't actually commit any crimes.

    As to why the prosecutor is singling out the small potatoes $653k Vince Gray machine, I think it's because he means what he says -- political corruption is a very bad thing. Hope this helps.

  • Wellllll!!!!

    TT: Thanks. '....didn't actually commit any crimes', or were wily and/or EXPERIENCED enough not to get caught?
    Please put on your thinking cap again and ponder this:

    See, I've been thinking about this thing for quite a while now, and it was quite obvious during the Thomas hearings that Fenty etal not only got away with mis-using DC Taxpayer dollars to the tune of close to $100 million, but the wily cayote(?), Papa Nickles was also able to bag the lead investigator and put him behind bars for pilfering peanuts compared to the sum his Godson and Gang got.

    There appear to be quite a few Fenty shenanigans that qualify as criminal. I guess it probably relates to the first part of your comment. Especially since none of the OTHER council members are being called to task for much worse than Thomas and the felonious gang Machen went after. Maybe it's only a very bad thing when CERTAIN politicians are considered corrupt.

    Anyhow, it begs the question of what Brendan Sullivan will do if Machen is crazy enough to really go after Jeffrey Thompson. The way I understand it, Sullivan is chomping at the bit to put some more prosecutor notches on his gun. Vince Gray's lawyer ain't no punk either.

    Finally, is there a statute of limitations on the seemingly criminal acts of Fenty etal? If so, what is it?
    I betcha Sullivan knows. Machen does too. Maybe that's what he's waiting for???????

    Just thinkin'.

  • Intrigue

    @Well!!!! Sam Brook's (natal) daddy is a big muckety muck lobbyist for the french aero-space industry. Who Sami's other daddies are is at this point anybody's guess. Both daddy Brooks and Tom McMahon are political pros. Tom McMahon would never have shredded his field budget in July knowing the opposition. The word would have had to have come down from higher up and from someone to whom McMahon would be compelled to listen. That can only be the candidate. Again, knowing the strength Fenty was known for in the field, the only way the candidate would have acquiesced to that being done is becauuse he knew there a separate operation being launched. These emails are the smoking gun. Gray knew! I guess this shoulld not surprise me, Sami being involved and all. Parts of his anatomy have long been said to be "smokin' "! Smokin' hot that is! It does seem he was pretty much an innocent grandstander in all this especially if you believe his "partners" assertion that their new firm was just putting a 15K poll in the field just to check the currents in the waters. Public affairs firms do that all the time, right? NOT!

  • mizwillis

    WELLLLLL......(As Tom Joyner would say).

    The plot thickens. I remember a saying that opened the segment of a radio program called "The Shadow" when I was very young. Something about asking who knew what lurked in the hearts and minds of men or something like that. Anyway, the answer in da hood was: "Da Shadow Do".

    So I'm impressed with these informative answers from Shadow and Intrigue. But I'm a tenacious and very curious kinda guy. Humor Me: Suppose the Mayor did in fact, know about the Shadow campaign (BTW, are there a
    couple of intended puns here, Mr. Shadow?).

    Would knowledge of someone contributing to his campaign

  • mizwillis

    Continued from #14:
    .....mean he had committed a crime? I remember reading somewhere else on this blog that it would only be criminal if the campaign solicited the help.

    Also, let's say for the sake of discussion the Mayor WAS in fact, told by Thompson that he was doing what it is alleged he did. If it was NOT a crime; if Gray did NOT solicit the help; and more importantly if he did NOT commit perjury by saying he did not know about it........?

  • mizwillis

    Come on LL.
    The continuation finishes the #13 comment. Why can't we ask questions like Wellllll????? We were really getting some good information here for a minute. Don't be a spoil sport.

  • drez

    I love how whenever Gray's dirt is exposed and discussed, his (former) supporters immediately try to turn the discussion to the previous administration.
    The Mayor of which (nor his staff), by the way, was never targeted by the the US Attorney.
    It's almost as if Gray's cronies really beleive they will be the ones who write history.

  • truth hurts

    Welll, Mizzterwillis, now just wait a damn minute. The thinker nailed it, I think. Gray and his crew -- including those who admitted their crimes under oath -- aren't corrupt. Machen made them do it because they're black. And Machen gave free passes to Fenty/Nickles --- who we all know stole millions of bucks -- because they are white. So no way does Machen indict Gray or Thompson: they got white lawyers. Wellll, mizzterwillis,now take a damn minute and bask in your brilliance.

  • Terry Miller

    I think there is an element of racism in all this "anti-Gray" stuff. (For the record I am white). I noticed that the campaign in Ward 3 (mostly white) was that Gray was a Barry crony, was like Barry and would restore the city to the bad old Barry days. Barry and Gray are nothing alike, other than being African American. Gray was accused of being a "criminal" for building a fence that was too high around his home. Now he is said to be a criminal although he has not been charged with any crime, much less convicted.

  • drez

    There's a certain level of blithe irony in saying that Barry and Gray are nothing alike in comments on an article about Vernon Hawkins.

  • Dcgovcorruption

    I would agree that mayor gray has not been charged with any crime. Also, the failure to register a pac with the DC office of campaign finance is not a felony. The race for mayor is a local election not federal. Federal charges can be brought when lying to the feds, destroying documents or when giving false testimony to the grand jury by people involved.The us attorney is having a difficult time in trying to gain direct evidence showing that the mayor is guilty of a federal crime. His attorney has not allowed him to speak with anyone regarding the campaign allegations, hence, no perjury charges that will stick before a jury when you examine the credibility of the different characters who have pleaded guilty.

  • drez

    The US Atty for DC can prosecute under both federal and local statutes.

  • dcgovcorruption

    The fact remains that the failure to register a local election pac is not a felony violation.

  • drez

    We are not talking about registering a PAC. The PAC in question was in fact registered. We are talking about coordinating the activities of a PAC and a campaign.
    That is illegal under both federal and local law.

  • Smh


  • dcgovcorruption

    I stand by my sources at the FEC.

  • drez

    That's just another version of the old "answer the question you wished they asked" trick.
    It's nonresponsive to the question at hand.