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Feds Drop Investigation of Former DC Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 Campaign

The investigation will end without any charges for Gray.
Photograph by Flickr user chesbayprogram.

The long-running federal investigation into former DC Mayor Vince Gray‘s 2010 campaign will end without any additional charges, Channing D. Phillips, the US attorney for the District, announced Wednesday. The announcement, delivered 21 months after prosecutors said longtime DC businessman Jeffrey Thompson bankrolled an illicit “shadow” campaign to help elect Gray, means no charges will be filed against the former mayor, who was dogged from the start of his administration about the activities of his political aides.

Phillips’s predecessor, Ron Machen, opened the probe in 2011 shortly after Gray took office, and began unraveling a scheme in which several of Gray’s campaign operatives and longtime friends, conspired with Thompson to spend unreported money on Gray’s behalf in 2010 to help him defeat then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. Investigators found Thompson spent $668,800 in undisclosed funds to support Gray; they also found that, going back to 2006, Thompson made a total of $3.3 million in unreported contributions to a slew of campaigns for local and federal offices.

For much of the investigation’s life, Gray was described in documents and hearings only as “Candidate A.” But the death knell for his mayoralty came in March 2014 when prosecutors identified “Candidate A” as Gray in open court when Thompson pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Prosecutors said Gray had a meeting with the businessman to discuss a shadow operation, during which Gray called Thompson “Uncle Earl.” Gray, who was running for re-election, went on to lose the Democratic primary three weeks later to Muriel Bowser.

Six more people, many of whom were close to Gray for years, pleaded guilty in the scheme around Gray’s campaign, as did five others in the broader investigation into Thompson’s activities. Many are still awaiting sentencing. But Machen did not see his signature case to its conclusion. He stepped down in March and returned to his private-practice roost at WilmerHale.

UPDATE: Gray, in statement emailed by his 2014 campaign manager, Chuck Thies, says District residents “have had their faith in our justice system tested” throughout the nearly five-year investigation, but that he looks forward to returning to public service:

My life’s work has been dedicated to uplifting people. I ran for Mayor to serve District residents. Today’s announcement from the US Attorney ends a lengthy investigation. Here in the District and around the country many people have had their faith in our justice system tested. Justice delayed is justice denied, but I cannot change history. I look forward to getting on with the next chapter of my life, which will no doubt be dedicated to service.

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.