- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014


Ready, aim, but don’t fire?

Vincent C. Gray, 72, has resigned, albeit unofficially. He gave his farewell address the other night, and media and supporters got a copy of his accomplishments. And if you’re hankering to see what he thinks of his nearly four years as mayor, visit the city’s website, where you will find out what he thinks of himself.

But it’s what you won’t find in the text of the mayor’s speech and on the website that hangs like an albatross on his neck.

Before Mr. Gray was sworn into office on Jan. 2, 2011, federal investigators were paying attention to slushy campaign financing — and that probe continues.

As recently as mid-November, the media reported that Mr. Gray had been offered a plea deal. The offer — plead guilty to a single felony count — was reportedly rejected in September. Mr. Gray reportedly asked and answered his own question: “What would I plead to? I’ve made clear all along what my feelings are about this whole situation. So I’m not about to change anything.”

Well, as I said, it’s what Mr. Gray has not discussed that is outstanding.

The federal probe stems from allegations and truths regarding Mr. Gray’s 2010 bid for mayor.

Evidence of a slush fund and questionable campaign activities dates to June 2010, when Gray campaign workers began paying Sulaimon Brown, another candidate, and when Mr. Brown began making the first of scores of phone calls to Mr. Gray and his campaign manager, Lorraine Green. In late August, polls predicted that incumbent Adrian Fenty had dropped in standing, and that Democrats were victory bound instead with Mr. Gray.

Mr. Brown, meanwhile, becomes frustrated and understandably so — after all, Mr. Brown was a Fenty attack dog for the Gray camp, and at times during forums would sidle up and tell the audience if you won’t vote for Brown vote for Gray. Mr. Brown subsequently got a job in the Gray administration — a $110,000 job. But he was fired within weeks, and the Gray bubble began to burst.

Federal prosecutors began probing the Gray camp and interviewing Mr. Brown. Mr. Gray hired well-known attorney Bob Bennett.

Here’s the bull’s eye: Six people, including businessman Jeffrey Thompson, have pleaded guilty to federal crimes related to the 2010 Gray mayoral campaign. The “shadow campaign” ran an estimated $653,000 slush fund that mostly was financed by Thompson, who pleaded guilty to two federal charges in March. The “shadow campaign” built up Mr. Gray and voters followed along. Thompson said Mr. Gray asked him for help.

Mr. Gray has said he knew nothing.

In his farewell address, Mr. Gray gave himself multiple pats on the back for physical structures that sprung up during his term as mayor, like schools and libraries, and hotels and other buildings — many of which would have been built regardless of who was mayor.

That’s OK. That’s what politicians do.

And Mr. Gray isn’t done quite yet. He’s got more dog-and-pony shows lined up, and he’s got to fit in his Christmas shopping and find time to ring in 2015 before he is officially deemed former Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

I fully understand why Mr. Gray did not accept U.S. Attorney General Ronald Machen’s plea offer.

Mr. Gray does not make deals under the gun. He does not like being pressured — really.

He is the mayor and he calls the shots (the have-nots know that).

Besides, Mr. Gray is a two-fisted gunner. Mr. Brown may have been hired as his attack dog, but Mr. Gray has his fingers on two triggers at once.

And he’s always at the ready to point, squeeze and fire — as he did at his successor, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, in his farewell address, offering a punch list of suggestions for extending his legacy.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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