Two members of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign staff, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, have been charged in an ongoing federal probe. For months, investigators have been looking into allegations that the Gray campaign made illegal payments to former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown. Brown says the campaign paid him for verbal attacks against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. But no charges had been filed until this week.
WAMU 88.5's District reporter Patrick Madden talks with Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about the latest on the story and what this means for city hall. Hear are some highlights:
On what has led to these charges: "It's that old adage, 'it's the cover up not the crime,'" Madden says. "That's the serious charges these two men are facing. Gore kept a spiral notebook detailing these payments to Brown, and when a Washington Post article came out with Brown's allegations, he destroyed this notebook and later lied to the FBI about it. With Brooks, he liked to the FBI about the payments to Sulaimon Brown.
The extent of the mayor's involvement, even as he continues to deny knowledge of they payments: "That's the key question here. Thomas Gore is not some low-level staffer. This was a man who ran Gray's council races in '04 and '06, and he was pretty much the guy running this campaign, he's someone who was a close associate of Gray's," Madden says. "So, the mayor, who is known as being a micro-manager, as someone who knows what's going on, did the mayor know about this scheme to pay Sulaimon Brown?"
On Gray's public response: "The mayor was criticizing the press for being so focused on the charges, and not asking about all these other good positive stories happening in the city," Madden says. "But when you have two members of your campaign team who are being charged and pleading guilty to these campaign finance violations, it's hard to focus on anything else."
Whether the mood at city hall has been affected: "There's this level of uncertainty about what's going to happen, when is the next shoe going to drop, what does this mean for the council and for the mayor," Madden says.
How the scandal has affected the work of the Gray administration: "Having this cloud over city hall right now really hurts their ability to get things done," Madden says. "On the other hand, this administration has done a good job of pushing through this. The mayor said yesterday to reporters, he can't comment on this, this is an ongoing investigation, and all they can do is really keep moving forward."