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Analysis: Mayor Gray's Campaign Finance Response, Virginia Budget Fallout

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Bob McCartney, Washington Post columnist

News in the District was dominated by allegations of campaign finance violations by Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign. The Washington Post reports that federal investigators are looking into an alleged shadow campaign that had not been disclosed. Meanwhile, in Virginia, lawmakers made progress on a state budget proposal, and a Congressional primary race is heating up in Maryland. Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney joins WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey for a look at these local stories. Following are highlights of the conversation.

As more allegations come out about the campaign, what do you make about how Mayor Gray is responding?

"Mayor Gray is saying very little about this, and I think it's hurting him in the court of public opinion. When he appears in public and reporters try to talk to him about these allegations, he basically cuts it off. He sticks to his standard line: he's called for an investigation, he wants it completed as soon as possible. He won't respond to specific allegations, which have been mounting."

"He hasn't been resorting to the strategy that one often sees in cases like this of mounting a counter-offensive, saying 'this is all unproven, the media is exaggerating, the prosecutor is on a witchhunt.' He basically just tried to make it go away. Now, I think he's probably listening to his lawyers, who typically say 'Don't say anything, because it can hurt you in court.' But if it's a sound legal strategy, I think it's a terrible political strategy. It inevitably encourages the public to think the worst is true."

A budget proposal is heading toward a vote in the Virginia State Senate after the Democrats no longer made their support contingent on having more power in committees, what impact does that have on Democrats in Richmond?

"I think the Democrats certainly lost this round of the public relations battle over the budget. They held up the budget in the State Senate originally to pressure the Republicans to give them a more equitable division of power in committee assignments. But the Republicans effectively called their bluff, effectively, and the Democrats caved. Now they're suddenly saying, "Let's forget about those committee assignments and just focus on spending issues.'"

"Now there's no final deal -- there still will have to be a conference committee to hash out the differences in the versions, but it does look like its headed to a solution basically because the Democrats have backed off on this issue of committee assignments. I think the best thing the Democrats can say is that they called attention to this issue, which is that they got short-changed by Republicans when the Senate was organized, and that is a real issue in the way that the Senate conducts its business. The GOP will be able to say that petty Democratic obstructionism prevented the legislature from finishing it's business on time. I expect we'll hear a lot about that from Republicans in coming months."

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