Controversy continues to hang around Mayor Vincent Gray, who recently announced his intention to run for re-election.
D.C. and Virginia politicians may not have much in common, but they did share one inglorious trait in 2013: plenty of them got stuck in scandals.
For yet another year, D.C.'s politicians had trouble escaping the cloud of corruption that has hung over the city since 2011. Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign remained under federal investigation, and prosecutors seemed to be closing in on a key figure: Jeffrey Thompson, the D.C. businessman and contractor suspected of illicitly funneling money to everyone from Gray's campaign to candidates running for federal office.
It wasn't only Gray and Thompson that made headlines, though. In June former Council member Michael Brown was charged with taking $55,000 in bribes from federal investigators posing as businessman seeking city contracts. Council member Marion Barry (D- Ward 8) was censured for taking $6,800 in loans from contractors, while his Ward 1 colleague Jim Graham was reprimanded for improperly interfering in a Metro land deal.
Many of the problems affecting D.C. politics were the subject of our Deals For Developers investigative series, which uncovered the relationship between developers and elected officials. All told, we found that D.C. officials had awarded $1.7 billion worth of subsidies to developers, many of which gave generously to the campaign coffers of those same officials.
This year the Council passed a campaign finance reform bill that tackles one of the most used vehicles for this campaign cash: bundled contributions, which will be illegal as of 2015. Until then, though, the practice continues. In December, Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) went to bat for a Maryland-based parking company that had given him over $40,000 in bundled contributions since 2010.
It wasn't just D.C. where political scandal and intrigue dominated the headlines, though.
In Virginia, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into the thousands of dollars worth of gifts given by a businessman to Gov. Bob McDonnell. Though McDonnell paid back $124,000 worth of gifts and loans from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, investigators are still trying to determine whether the governor provided Williams and his company with any favors or official actions.
In Maryland, Attorney General Doug Gansler's nascent gubernatorial campaign produced two mini-scandals when he accused Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown of using his the color of his skin to get elected and was photographed at a high school party where underage drinking was taking place. As for Brown, he had his own scandal brewing: as the lead state official on the rollout of the federal health care reform, he was forced to answer questions on technical glitches that afflicted Maryland's online exchange.
All the scandalizing that happened in 2013 has — and could have — electoral consequences.
The McDonnell scandal helped doom Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's gubernatorial run — he also took gifts from Williams — and spurred a Democratic sweep of the three statewide offices that were on the November ballot. In D.C., voters will soon get to decide whether Gray should be trusted to remain in office or not: in early December he announced that he was running for re-election, and will have to fend off a number of challengers in the April 1 primary. As for Maryland, Gansler and Brown will be duking it out to see who wins the Democratic nomination to replace outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley.