Gray Aide Admits Funneling Campaign Funds

Wire Report | 5/22/2012, 6:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON - A former Gray campaign aide pleaded guilty Tuesday to funneling campaign funds to another mayoral candidate and shredding records of the transactions.

Thomas Gore admitted in U.S. District Court that he converted excessive or unattributed cash contributions to Gray's 2010 campaign into money orders that were then filled out by another party and given to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate. The payments were intended to keep Brown in the race so that he could continue making negative comments about then-mayor Adrian Fenty as he sought reelection, Gore acknowledged.

The 56-year-old Gore, a longtime friend of Gray's and the acting treasurer for the campaign, also admitted that he lied to the FBI about having shredded a spiral notebook in which he kept records of the payments to Brown. He further revealed that he was caught in the lie when confronted with wiretap evidence.

Brown has long maintained that he was paid by Gray's campaign and promised a job in the Gray administration in exchange for his harsh rhetoric about Fenty. He alleged that Gray was aware of the payments, which the mayor denies. Brown was appointed to a $110,000-a-year city government job in January 2011, shortly after Gray took office, and fired after less than a month.

"In 2010, the voters of the District of Columbia were deceived," U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. "Envelopes stuffed with fraudulent money orders prevented the public from knowing that one mayoral campaign was secretly financing the campaign of an opposing candidate."

Gore pleaded guilty to a felony obstruction-of-justice charge for the attempted cover-up and three misdemeanors of making a contribution in the name of another person. The money orders contained the names of people who did not contribute to the Brown campaign.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to receive 12 to 18 months in prison, although prosecutors could seek a reduction in the event of "substantial cooperation" with investigators. Because of the ongoing probe, no sentencing date was set.

Gore and his attorney, Frederick Cooke, declined to comment after the hearing. Gray's spokesman deferred comment to the mayor's attorney, who could not be reached and has repeatedly declined to comment about the investigation.

Gray, 69, defeated Fenty by 10 percentage points in the 2010 Democratic primary, tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with a mayor widely perceived as aloof. Gray also touted himself as the more ethical candidate, criticizing Fenty for steering lucrative government contracts to his college fraternity brothers. Voters split along racial and socioeconomic lines, with Gray carrying poorer, majority-black sections of the city by wide margins while Fenty fared well in wealthier neighborhoods.

Several Gray campaign staffers have said Brown's attacks on Fenty at candidate forums amounted to a sideshow that did nothing to help Gray get elected.

According to a document outlining Gore's actions, which he acknowledged in court was accurate, Gore and another Gray campaign staffer agreed in June 2010 to start funneling money to Brown. Although the other campaign staffer was identified in the document only as "Person A," records of the money-order contributions indicate that person was Howard Brooks, a Gray campaign consultant. Brooks has not been charged.