A veteran of D.C. government and politics who helped coordinate Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s campaign in Ward 8, which voted heavily for Mr. Gray, said this week that official campaign workers were both aware of — and resentful of — what has come to be known as the “shadow campaign” of 2010.
Among Gray campaign volunteers’ grievances, according to Bernadette Tolson, a former chief of staff to D.C. Council member Marion Barry, was that paid campaign workers were brought in from other cities while unemployed local volunteers struggled financially.
“We knew there was another campaign,” Ms. Tolson told The Washington Times on Thursday. “We could see it, and these people were being paid.”
Ms. Tolson and former acting president of the University of the District Columbia Stanley Jackson, who in the past has served the city as a deputy mayor, director of housing and community development and chief of staff to the chief financial officer, were co-coordinators in Ward 8, she said. Mr. Jackson did not return a call for comment.
While it is true that the Gray campaign brought in paid consultants from out of state to get out the vote, Lloyd Jordan, a lawyer for the campaign, informal adviser to the mayor and a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustment who received a fast-track appointment in early 2011, told The Times that such campaign expenditures were properly reported to the Office of Campaign Finance.
And Mr. Jordan denied any knowledge of any such expenditures being funded by the more than $650,000 widely thought to have been contributed to the Gray campaign by city contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson.
“I was not aware of any shadow campaign, though I was aware of several independently funded campaigns,” Mr. Jordan said, referring to various groups including labor unions that formed legitimate political action committees. “I understand there may have been one group that failed to file expense reports.”
The Gray campaign’s field effort, at least initially, was reportedly supervised by Vernon Hawkins, a longtime Gray fundraiser and campaign consultant and a former director of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the administration of Mr. Barry when he was mayor.
Mr. Hawkins, who has not been charged with a crime but whose name surfaced months ago as a person of interest in the ongoing probe, was forced to resign from DHS in 1996 after the D.C. financial control board took an unprecedented vote to remove him from the city payroll citing “widespread waste and abuse in the handling of city contracts,” according to news reports at the time.
According to Ms. Tolson, however, the recent revelations about the gusher of unreported campaign cash raises questions about how the get-out-the-vote effort was funded.
She said it looked as though the money “was paid to the shadow campaign, which then paid for various consultants and such.”
“And some of them got bonuses,”she added.
Ms. Tolson described seeing large sums of cash at campaign headquarters, and she recalled Howard Brooks, who worked on the Gray campaign’s finances and pleaded guilty in May to lying to federal investigators, handling envelopes of cash on a regular basis.
“We called him the envelope man,” Ms. Tolson said. “There was too much money around for it to have come from legitimate contributions.”
A campaign official who has been interviewed twice by the FBI but who declined to be identified said not everyone knew where the incoming campaign funds were coming from, only that they were being spent and reported legitimately.
In contrast, Ms. Tolson described a shoestring volunteer effort by dedicated Ward 8 residents who were angered to have lost their jobs during the Fenty administration and motivated by the prospect of defeating him. “I fed some of them and gave them rent money,” she said. “I had trouble getting reimbursed for my own expenses.”
Some volunteers, she added, were angry after the election when they were unable to get jobs in the Gray administration. And for those who put their faith in Mr. Gray, she said, the prospect of a shadow campaign that included payments and bonuses to other campaign workers is a tough pill for some to swallow.
“I opened up my house as a Ward 8 campaign office,” she said. “We even set up a call center there.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Jeffrey Anderson is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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