POLITICS

Mayor Vincent Gray defends against corruption allegations

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Programming note: D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is scheduled to appear on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt on Friday morning. You can watch it live at 10 a.m. at news8.net.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray spoke out about the ongoing investigations into his campaign on Wednesday, saying that his 2010 mayoral campaign that has so far resulted in three criminal pleas was “not the campaign that we intended to run.”

Gray said he wouldn’t resign and added that the investigation is ongoing. He also emphasized that he was one of the individuals who sparked the investigation into his campaign.

D.C. councilmembers David Catania, Muriel Bowser and Mary Cheh, meanwhile, have called on Gray to resign.

“Whether or not he knew of the massive election fraud that was taking place in his name, he is responsible for it," Cheh said in a statement. "I believe that he would do a great public service if he would step aside now."

Bowser added the conduct of the Gray campaign was "outrageous... If he cares about the city...he'll have to step aside."

If Gray were to step down, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson would replace him on an interim basis. Mendelson became council chairman just last month after former chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to bank fraud and resigned.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Medelson said, in part:

"...the U.S. Attorney has not accused the Mayor of having broken the law, and absent that charge the call for Vince Gray to resign is premature. Indeed, typically people say that the process should play itself out...I will not defend criminal behavior, and I do not defend what we now know about the 2010 campaign. But I also urge restraint in the seeking of another resignation until the U.S. Attorney actually asserts that the Mayor himself did something wrong.”

On the streets of D.C., while not everyone wants to see the mayor leave office, some in his home turf in Ward 7 say he needs to go.

Watch the video below to hear what D.C. voters had to say.

 

Gray spoke a day after a longtime associate, Jeanne Harris, pleaded guilty to running a shell campaign. She is the third person connected to his campaign who has pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Prosecutors say Harris funneled $653,000 in unreported funds from a co-conspirator to Gray's campaign.

Two of Gray's top campaign aides, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, pleaded guilty earlier this year to obstructing justice and lying to the FBI about paying another mayoral candidate, Sulaimon Brown, to criticize then-mayor Adrian Fenty.

U.S. Attorney Ron Machen said Wednesday the 2010 mayoral campaign was “corrupted."

In his comments Wednesday, Gray said that he feels badly for Harris but is concerned about possible corruption within his 2010 campaign.

“I’ve known J for a very long time and feel very badly about this,” he says.

But Gray said that the accusations and criminal pleas center on his campaign, not his administration. He believed that his campaign had raised the money in question.

"I thought from my perspective we had raised a substantial sum of money during that campaign," Gray continued.

When asked about the U.S. Attorney’s comments that the 2010 campaign is corrupted, Gray replied: “That obviously is the U.S. Attorney’s position."

Gray has said little about the investigation in recent months, and he said Wednesday that he was unable to discuss it in the detail that he would like because the probe is ongoing.

He acknowledged, however, that he was deeply concerned about the activity that his campaign operatives have revealed in federal court. 

Asked if he was corrupt, Gray said: "There are lots of people who probably will have that question. I know who I am. I get up in the morning every day and look in the mirror and I see somebody I respect."

Although the name of Harris' co-conspirator was not revealed in court, two people familiar with the investigation have told The Associated Press that the businessman accused of funding the shadow campaign is Jeffrey Thompson, a partner in an accounting firm who also owns a managed-care provider that is the city's largest contractor.

The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information. Gray did not directly answer a question about whether Thompson handed him checks, but he said no candidate could be expected to personally vet every contribution.

Harris also pleaded guilty to conspiring to make straw contributions and said her co-conspirator would "bundle" the checks and hand them directly to candidates he supported.

The co-conspirator later reimbursed the straw donors, including Harris, according to her plea.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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