District Digest: The Mayor’s Gray future gets grimmer
More illegal campaign dealings come to light. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that an off-the-books “shadow campaign” illegally bought Vincent Gray’s 2010 bid for mayor $653,000 worth of paid staff, apparel, and consulting work. With this week came the third guilty plea by a campaign staffer, Eugina Clark Harris. Harris admitted to funneling the money through her business and attempting to conceal evidence that she had done so. Prosecutors believe that most of the money came from mega-donor Jeffery E. Thompson, who has been highly active donor in D.C. politics for years. He owns D.C. Chartered Health Plan, which took in $320 million in government contracts last year. According to the Post, he is looking to sell his share in that company, and, yesterday, he sold his share in the accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates, which is also accused of sharing a part in the shadow campaign.
Federal prosecutors stopped short of accusing Gray of any wrongdoing. The mayor denies knowing anything about the shadow campaign, even though most if not all the goods it purchased were delivered directly to Gray’s campaign office. Although he admitted to his campaign having “issues,” he has refused to speak at length regarding the ongoing investigation. Recent reports by the Post indicate that Gray probably found out about the scandal in January when he met with Harris. At the meeting, he apparently told her to immediately file the unreported campaign money with the city’s Office of Campaign finance.
Even so, various pundits and D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and David Catania (I-At Large) have called on Gray to resign. “The people you chose to surround yourself with engaged in a criminal conspiracy to undermine the election process in this city, which means as the leader of that campaign, you forfeit the fruits of that effort,” Catania told the Post. “Does any reasonable person believe that Jeff Thompson invested $653,000 in a shadow campaign and didn’t tell the beneficiary? That makes no sense. None.”
The mayor has said that he has “no plans” to resign. In the midst of the ongoing lottery scandal, many campaign finance issues have come to light. The ordeal has enraged former Gray campaign staffers, one of whom was quoted by DCist, saying: “It’s humiliating. Every last one of us is bathed in the shame of the choices these people made. When someone learns you worked for the Gray campaign, you’re forced to make a simple decision: defend or disavow.”
Cupcakes, now any time of day. Sprinkles is set to open a cupcake ATM at its M street location in Georgetown beginning this August. The machine will be intended to serve late-night patrons who crave something other than Little Debbies. Cupcakes will be sold individually at a rate of $4 each, 50 cents higher than the store price. The Georgetown Cupcake communications staff say they “know of no plans” of following suit.
LivingSocial gets a tax break. The D.C. Council unanimously approved a measure this Tuesday to exempt the daily deals provider LivingSocial of $32.5 million in local taxes, provided they remain in the city and hire D.C. residents. The measure is part of a broader plan to attract technology companies to the city.
Photo: Andrew Bossi (Flickr)