Gray Digs In for the Long Haul
Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 7/18/2012, 4:34 p.m.
Almost from the beginning of his tenure as D.C.'s mayor, Vincent C. Gray's administration has been entangled in a far-reaching federal investigation into activities surrounding his 2010 election campaign.
The latest domino to fall is Gray's longtime friend and associate Jeanne Clarke Harris who last week pled guilty to violating District and federal campaign finance laws, engaging in fraud, giving false statements and obstructing justice. She is the third Gray campaign official to plead guilty in recent months.
Not long after her appearance in court, D.C. Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and David Catania (I-At Large) issued public statements demanding Gray's resignation. Gray has been defiant, steadfastly refusing to resign.
"I think it's unfair to say our administration is corrupt," Gray told members of the media at his weekly press conference on July 11. "I have distinguished between the campaign and administration. If there's something about our administration you want to put your finger on, I would invite you to do that but I think that's a very unfair characterization."
"As you'll remember, I'm the one who called for an investigation of my own campaign. And we will continue to work with the investigation. A lot of people will probably have that question but I get up every morning and look in the mirror and see someone I respect..."
Gray continues to deny any knowledge of the shadow campaign or any wrongdoing.
Harris, 75, admitted in court to overseeing the disbursement of $653,800 to fund the shadow campaign, and she said she enlisted relatives, friends and employees as "straw donors" to direct an additional $38,000 into the Gray campaign. The money is believed to have come from powerful political donor and kingmaker Jeffrey Thompson.
Catania said Gray has further sullied the reputation of the city's political leaders and said he should leave regardless of whether he was aware of what was going on or not.
Catania, 44, who has a frosty relationship with Gray, 69, was blunt.
"The legitimacy of the election has been called into question. Whether the mayor knew of the shadow campaign or not does not matter," said Catania shortly after news of Harris' court appearance broke. "He should not be the beneficiary of that illegality. He should step down immediately for the good of the District."
Cheh, 61, who supported Gray in 2010 against the wishes of a vast majority of her constituents who preferred former Mayor Adrian Fenty, said much the same.
"Today, I join Councilmember Catania in calling on Mayor 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. I cannot overemphasize the sadness that accompanies this action on my part."
"I came to know Vincent Gray as chairman of the Council and during the four years that we served together, I did not know of a single person with more integrity and commitment to the people of the District of Columbia. Indeed, that's why I endorsed him when he ran for mayor. But the facts cannot be ignored and what has happened since has caused incalculable harm to the District. I believe he would do a great public service if he would step aside now."