The annual State of the District address is usually a chance for D.C.'s mayor to promote his accomplishments and promote his agenda, but Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2014 speech on Tuesday started by defending himself against accusations that he knew of an illegal shadow campaign orchestrated by a D.C. businessman that pumped $653,000 into Gray's 2010 mayoral bid.
"I say this to all of you now, clearly and unequivocally: I didn’t break the law," he said, refuting claims by Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to two campaign finance-related felonies this week.
Thompson is cooperating with federal investigators looking into the 2010 campaign, and told them that Gray not only knew of the shadow campaign, but also asked him to raise money for it.
"So I ask you, who do you believe? A greedy man attempting to save himself, or me, a public servant who has dedicated his entire career to giving back to our communities?" said Gray during the opening part of his speech at Kelly Miller Middle School in Ward 7. "I have spent my entire life in public service, all of it with a clean and unblemished record. Why would I, at the tail end of that, suddenly turn on that life, a life lived openly and honestly?"
On Monday U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ron Machen pushed back on claims that Thompson was implicating Gray to save himself.
"Under the plea agreement, if Mr. Thompson is not truthful with us in any way, shape or form in any part of our inquiry, we can prosecute him and he can go to jail for two years, we can rip up the agreement and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. It gives him incentives to come forward and be truthful," he said.
Machen also said that Thompson's indictment was "only the tip of the iceberg," and that D.C. candidates who benefited from his $2 million in illicit contributions should step forward.
"I want to be very clear in our collective message this afternoon: If you participated in backroom, under-the-table deals with Jeff Thompson, I urge you to come forward now and own up to your conduct. I promise you we are not going away," he said.
Ever since Thompson's bombshell revelations earlier this week, Gray has loudly proclaimed his innocence. In an interview with WAMU 88.5 yesterday, Gray said that while he asked Thompson to raise funds for his 2010 mayoral bid, he did not participate in an illegal actions.