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New allegations surface in probe of D.C. Mayor Gray
A minor candidate in last year’s D.C. mayoral race has told federal authorities that Mayor Vincent C. Gray handed him a list of talking points to use against the then-incumbent Adrian M. Fenty, according to a person with knowledge of the document.
The exchange of talking points would show that he and Mr. Gray worked closely together during last year’s Democratic primary, though authorities would have to verify that Mr. Gray authored the document or handed it off. The document would also bolster Mr. Brown’s claim that the Gray campaign essentially employed him to spout anti-Fenty rhetoric so that Mr. Gray could focus on his positive vision for the city.
Though the document by itself wouldn’t constitute a crime, its existence would paint an unflattering portrait of back-room deal-making in the nation’s capital.
Federal authorities are investigating Mr. Brown’s allegations that members of Mr. Gray’s campaign staff paid him thousands of dollars to stay in the race and promised him a job in the Gray administration if he won.
Mr. Gray has denied wrongdoing and has said he knows nothing about cash and money orders given to Mr. Brown. His lawyer, Robert Bennett, called Mr. Brown’s talking points allegation “absolute nonsense” and fictional. Mr. Gray’s spokeswoman, Linda Wharton Boyd, had no immediate comment.
“He never gave him anything,” Mr. Bennett said.
Mr. Gray won last September’s Democratic primary in surprisingly lopsided fashion, given Mr. Fenty’s reputation outside the District as a hard-charging reformer who had improved local public schools with the help of his hand-picked schools chancellor. Then chairman of the D.C. Council, Mr. Gray portrayed himself as more ethical and collaborative than Mr. Fenty, who fell out of favor locally for his perceived aloof demeanor and for steering government contracts to his fraternity brothers.
Mr. Brown, a political novice, frequently disparaged Mr. Fenty during the campaign with personal attacks. He has told representatives of the U.S. attorney’s office that Mr. Gray handed him a list of talking points to bolster his rhetoric, and the document is among hundreds he has provided to prosecutors in hopes of substantiating his allegations against Mr. Gray’s campaign, according to the person who spoke to the Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because a grand jury is weighing Mr. Brown’s allegations.
Ronald Machen, the U.S Attorney for the District, declined through a spokesman to comment on the investigation. The government does not publicly discuss grand jury investigations.
The grand jury is also looking into campaign finance irregularities in Mr. Gray’s campaign, according to people familiar with the probe, although it’s not clear what charges, if any, could be brought. Those people have also asked not to be named because of the secret nature of grand jury investigations.
Mr. Gray has said that he has not appeared before the grand jury or been questioned by prosecutors.
Mr. Gray tapped into widespread dissatisfaction with Mr. Fenty — especially in the city’s poorer, majority-black wards — to oust the first-term mayor by more than 13,000 votes, or 10 percentage points. Mr. Brown received 209 votes in the primary out of nearly 134,000. He used the catchphrase, “Go Brown, go Gray, go any color but Fenty.”
Mr. Fenty did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Mr. Brown handed over the document this summer in a meeting with members of the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to the person who spoke to the AP. Mr. Brown declined to comment on the document. It was not immediately clear who authored the talking points, or precisely what anti-Fenty message they conveyed.
After Mr. Gray took office in January, Mr. Brown was hired for a $110,000-a-year job in the District’s Department of Health Care Finance despite questions about his background, which includes an attempted murder charge as a teenager — he was acquitted — a poor credit history and a spotty resume. He was fired less than a month later, with administration officials citing inappropriate office behavior.
By Tom Fitton
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