Newsletters

Get Well+Being delivered to your inbox every Monday Morning.

Mayor Gray’s Elaborate, Illegal Scheme to Steal the Election
Why DC deserves a do-over when it comes to electing a mayor.
By Harry Jaffe
Former mayor Adrian Fenty passing the city seal to new mayor Vince Gray in 2011. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Comments () | Published July 11, 2012

Perhaps it’s time to consider a do-over, another election for mayor. Would that we could toss Mayor Vince Gray and reinstall Adrian Fenty. Fenty—and the voters of DC—were robbed.

Tuesday’s court proceedings unveiled an elaborate, secret, and illegal scheme to swing votes to Gray. “Sinister,” US Attorney Ronald Machen called it. Gray and his crew stole the election, plain and simple. If not for the $653,000 that paid for a fundamental and effective get-out-the-vote operation, might Fenty have won?

The chattering classes say Fenty lost the office by his own mistakes, failures, and lack of political smarts. There’s ample evidence to support that conclusion. Fenty was always a young mayor on the run to fix stuff in the nation’s capital. In his haste to play hard within the government, he declined to play the outside game of politics.

Fenty’s takeover of schools was fraught with political risk. He confronted the teachers’ union, fired teachers, and closed schools. None of those moves was popular. He refused to play homage to DC’s established political groups. He gave the back of his hand to the DC Chamber of Commerce, the Federal City Council, and travel and hospitality associations. Called to a meeting or event, he would show up late and leave early. He loathed shaking hands and slapping backs. He made too many average Washingtonians feel as if they were a nuisance.

Still, many voters saw Fenty as an energetic and effective chief executive who was rebuilding schools and taking DC to a new level of competence. He could have built a winning narrative.

Three foul and ultimately corrupt enterprises helped weaken Fenty and bring him down.

First, Ward 5 council member Harry Thomas Jr. led an investigation into contracting practices within the Fenty government. Thomas used his chairmanship of the parks and recreation committee to charge Fenty with steering $82 million in contracts to renovate recreation centers to his friends and fraternity brothers. Sounds juicy and corrupt. Except that it was neither. The council appointed an independent counsel to investigate, who absolved Fenty completely.

While he was harassing Fenty, Thomas was stealing more than $300,000 in funds meant to teach poor kids how to play sports. Thomas used public funds to buy fancy rides and take swell vacations. The feds caught him; he’s headed to the slammer.

Despite being absolved of any wrongdoing, Fenty bore the taint of corruption into the campaign. The mud stuck.

Second, operatives in Vincent Gray’s campaign paid another mayoral candidate, Sulaimon Brown, to harass Fenty at forums. Brown was good at it. A tall, thin, flamboyant fellow, Brown proved to be a potent weapon. I recall seeing him in action at the crucial forum in Ward 4, Fenty’s home base, at the height of the campaign. Brown would stand up in the midst of the debate, accuse Fenty of paying off his frat brothers, hurl epithets at him, and ask people to vote for Vince Gray, if not for him. I watched Fenty start the forum on message but slowly wilt with frustration. Gray was able to sit back with a Cheshire cat smile.

In hindsight, knowing that Gray’s closest aides were giving Brown envelopes of cash and money orders, I am revolted.

Now comes Jeanne Clarke Harris. At 75, wheeled into court in a chair Tuesday, Harris came across as a victim of the plot. “I’m just saying I don’t have a halo over my head,” she told the judge. But she did participate in an evil enterprise. She admitted to helping launder $38,000 in funds that reportedly came from wealthy contractor Jeffrey Thompson, who bundled the money and gave it to Gray’s campaign. None was disclosed to campaign authorities.

Whoever was directing the campaign was a pro. Documents made public in court revealed that the illicit contributions went to the building blocks of a successful voter drive. They bought signs and umbrellas, banners and lapel stickers and T-shirts. The Gray campaign used the dirty money to identify voters, convince them to vote for Gray, and drive them to the polls, in some cases.

Add it up: Convicted felon Harry Thomas, Jr. concocts and trumpets a conspiracy that Fenty steered contracts to friends. An independent counsel proves it false, but the fiction becomes a reality that Fenty must deny. Gray’s campaign pays Sulaimon Brown to wildly harass Fenty during the campaign. Then Gray’s campaign employs hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal, unreported funds to convince voters Gray is the “clean” candidate.

Gray was dirty. We were robbed.

Let’s leave aside who else might come to justice for criminal acts. Jeff Thompson, by many measures a pillar of the community, looks like toast. Everyone assumes Gray will be forced to resign, though federal investigators have yet to reveal whether he directed any aspects of the criminal enterprises. More people will go to jail.

That’s cold comfort for a city whose last election is looking to have been more of a coup d’etat.

Categories:

Local News Politics
Subscribe to Washingtonian

Discuss this story

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. The Washingtonian reserves the right to remove or edit content once posted.
  • Truth Speaker7

    Rabbi Harry--

    What seriously exceeds the widely skewed and always less than half true nature of your articles pertaining to D.C. politics and specifically African American D.C. politicians is your rampant, careless, and arrogant stupidity not giving a darn that there are thousands of D.C. residents who not only know this and your propensity to naturally assume the general public is unaware of covert inside D.C. politics, but thousands also know exactly why and whose self-interests, dirt, and sleaze is behind and in control of all that you never, ever tell the truth about. There isn't enough space here for me to do so, but I will at the very least address several issues you pointed out in this article and inform your readers of information they either likely don't know, haven't thought about, or refuse to acknowledge.

    1) Adrian Fenty' first mayoral campaign / mayoral re-election campaign were both very heavily financed almost exclusively by rich, wealthy, and upper middle-class white Jews and also some African Americans with financial ties to those white Jews living in and outside of the District of Columbia, all along the East Coast of America from Boston to Florida, and as far away as Chicago and California, if not also outside of the U.S., all of whom and also others too stood to make big bank pushing native D.C. and longtime African American residents out of jobs, homes, apartment buildings, and small to large retail and commercial business space citywide to jet-speed develop the city and attract tremendous numbers of new and monied white residents;

    2) Despite report of the city council' so-called "independent counsel" who supposedly investigated whether Fenty "steered contracts" to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the fact is Fenty with the covert / overt strong financial blessing, great expectation, technical and legal support of his clever and rich white Jewish backers did steer contracts, people, both ignored and also altered D.C. law to exclusively benefit the self-interests of his financial backers, and way more;

    3) You describing D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray' campaign financing as "dirty money" is not only rich, but incredible hypocrisy based on the huge numbers of rich / wealthy white Jews, their businesses, partners, employees, families, and friends who heavily financially backed Fenty campaign, mainstream local / national media' unmitigated non-objective support, and Fenty' campaign' / donors' sophistication in funneling huge sums of money undetected, which absolutely doesn't mean Fenty never received money other than under campaign finance rules and under the table. On the contrary, it overwhelmingly more likely means that he did.

    Also, Fenty / his rich white Jewish supporters so had the city' entire African American / other minority business owners / leaders under such fearful lockdown versus any love of Fenty that they were actually too scared to provide any campaign donations of any amount whatsoever to any other mayoral candidates 2009 to 2010 up until Vince Gray entered the race in March 2010. They thought he had a great chance of beating Fenty given how much the vast majority of black residents hated Fenty. Ordinary African American D.C. residents were certainly not the only ones who hated Adrian Fenty based on injustices he willingly carried out against black people, businesses, and government workers in the District. Minority business owners / leaders were well aware of the Fenty administration' power based on the great financial / legal / all other power held / readily wielded by those backing him;

    4) Both a few days before and on the day of D.C. Mayor 2010 Election, Fenty' rich white Jewish supporters and his campaign staff knowing he was in trouble were so incredibly concerned, pressed, diabolical, desperate and "dirty" to keep the best puppet they ever had in office that someone among them came up the idea of bribing and paying unemployed poor / low-income African American young adults and high school students $100.00 each to vote for Adrian Fenty. His campaign staff and other supporters on election day actually rode around the District in white vans both throughout low-income neighborhoods citywide and to high schools in the District offering to pay $100.00 to black young adults and high school seniors of age who would both agree to vote for Fenty / immediately get into the white campaign vans to be driven to vote.

    This entirely despicable / repulsive / outrageous plan worked well easily bribing hundreds of black kids to vote for Fenty to earn $100.00 from money donated to him from the same rich / wealthy white Jews engaged in running the black kids / their parents out of the District. Well the dastardly plan back-fired when several of the young adults right after voting for Fenty who did not immediately get paid the same day complained to their parents who then called community leaders, ANCs, and others in opposition to Fenty who telephoned his campaign office and the media;

    5) As for dirty tricks, deception, destructive evil and "coup d' etat", white America and Europe are the masters / mistresses of such given they've have successfully long practiced all inside / outside of countries / governments for purposes of social / economic engineering directly tied white supremacy, racism, and greed against black people and other people of color since the beginning of time and by any means or cost they believe necessary.

    Dirty Harry understand something . You, your people, and your gullible, brainwashed, and fearful black allies get away with nothing. Almighty God and enough black people really do know exactly what has historically gone on in this city, in this country, and also that the dirty hands of white people and especially white Jews are always heavily involved paying for and calling the shots in either a covert or overt way who can be identified and outed in all of it.

    Whether it's present or former allies or enemies, someone or many people know exactly who has been done and someone is always willing to talk and spill the beans at some time or the other for whatever reasons. Never forget this. No media, arms, bank accounts, contacts, or any other form of so-called "white power" is big enough nor will ever be big enough to go up against, beat, or defeat the Supreme Power & Justice of Almighty God. Take this to your alter of public opinion bank it.

  • Guest

    Fenty lost the campaign for mayor to Gray b/c he lost it. It wasn't stolen. Now that doesn't excuse the stupidity of the Gray efforts - but it was Fenty's to loose from get go and that he did.

  • 16&U

    About a week before the election, I was at the Southwest DMV to take my written driving test, having let my driver's license lapse years before. To my surprise, it was doing quite a business at 11am on a Tuesday. There was even a line out the door, comprised mostly of young African American men, many teenagers, who had been driven there by "Gray" vans. I was pretty surprised (I think my thought was "is this legal?"), but the best was yet to come.

    The DMV had posted a women to try and route people to the right counter, so that folks like me could go take their test and those registering to vote would go to the appropriate counter. When she asked the young man directly in front of me what he was there for, he said - and I'll never forget this - "I'm here to vote." No, the DMV worker said, you're here to register to vote. The election isn't until next week. "Yeah" he replied "Whatever."He took a voter registration form and headed inside.

    I can't prove anything beyond what I saw, but it occurs to me that people don't just willingly get into a van and register to vote out of the good of their hearts. One might think that there was some incentive, and that would be very illegal indeed.

  • Nancy Bulger

    Let's not convict the mayor before the facts. Fenty was no angel, and people hated working with him. A mayor needs to be a people person, a delegator, and a manager who assumes the people who work with him are fair, yes, but also can get the job done whether its an election or city improvements.

    Rather than a witch hunt to assure that the leadership is who the press wants or doesn't want, why not move over to congress and see if there's anyone there whose staff drove people to the voting poles, or if they accepted money from companies they're now pushing in a major conflict of interest, like the military industrial complex selling new weapons and keeping us in wars to kill our sons and daughters while lining the pockets of executives who then fund elections.
    How vindictive is this pursuit of the mayor, how relentless to be sure he has no chance to succeed. To the press, take notepads up to the Hill, figure out how our national representatives really operate before you pick on Mayor Gray. There are no innocent politicians. They don't get elected. Nancy Bulger

  • I worked for Fenty. I did not hate him. He was a people person, a delegator and good manager. The people he cared about most were the citizens who needed government services the most. His caring attitude for them did not translate well - nonetheless, he had a sense of urgency (and expectation of government workers) to do as much as humanly possible and as fast as possible to improve government services. Fenty's style may have been flawed but it is undeniable that he got the job done; he got results.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 07/11/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs