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Thursday, May 24, 2012

DC Mayoral Scandal

The DC mayoral election scandal has been brewing for over a year and is only getting juicier and juicier. I sniffed around on reliable news reports. The way facts come out makes it a bit difficult to figure the chronology of things, which is a bit mind tickling in itself. The news printed today has to include things that happened yesterday and the events and actions two years ago that caused yesterday's event. It's not a conventional novel with a linear narrative or a one-hour police drama --- Well, actually, no, a police drama also presents the cause after or simultaneously with the effect. But I digress.

Below is a summary of the events of the 2010 DC mayoral election, in chronological order, from what I've gathered. Such great materials for a thriller or two.

Why Sulaimon Brown, an unemployed accountant (or so he claims) in his late 30s with no obvious financial backing, entered the election as a minor candidate with no hope of winning, remains unknown. Nevertheless, he was one of the candidates and openly and aggressively attacked the incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty in public debates. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2010, he was one of several candidates in the DC mayor's race.

It is also unknown exactly when the leading Vincent Gray and his staffers made a deal with Brown to act as his "agent" to attach his rival. At least in late summer or early fall, Brown directly made deals with Lorraine Green, Gray's campaign manager. Green and Howard Brooks, who is Gray's close friend and a paid consultant on the campaign, met with Brown and gave him money in exchange for his "assistance." The payments amounted to several thousand dollars. In addition, Brown demanded a promise of a job for himself and a job for his brother in Gray's administration once he came into office. By Brown's own claim, Green and Brooke gave him the promise.

Next, Gray won the election in the fall of 2010, defeating Fenty by about 10 percentage points. Before he took office, however, Brown began to get nervous in the winter of 2010, as he sensed some cooling response to him from Gray's circle. After all, he'd served his purpose, would they abandon him now? He called and texted Gray, Green, and Brooks repeatedly and did extract a promise from Gray to keep his word.

Came January 2011, Gray took office and indeed gave Brown a job in his administration as some sort of special consultant to the health finance office, which paid him a salary of about $110K a year. This appointment drew criticism almost immediately, perhaps because of Brown's recent performance only a few months ago, or perhaps it became obvious that he was not qualified for the job. Someone dug up Brown's record of having been arrested twice before, although he was not charged or convicted. The grumbles made Gray nervous enough to remove Brown from the lucrative appointment after only 2 months in March 2011.

This "betrayal," of course, enraged Brown, and the rest of the drama proves that a politician always has to be careful who they choose to make deals with. Brown made Gray pay. Oh did he make all of them pay.

Once dismissed from the job, Sulaimon Brown called Washington Post and gave them the whole story of how he was bought by Gray's campaign to attack Fenty previously with the promise of a job and a few thousand dollars. He produced his own cell phone's call history and text messages to corroborate his story. He directly implicated Green, who headed the mayoral transition team, Brooks, and Gray himself. The story came out in Washington Post in March 2011. Gray and his staff, of course, denied all the allegations.

The allegations attracted the attention of the FBI and US Attorney's Office. They have the power to raid any office, search and seize any documents, and make anyone talk. Howard Brooks appears to be one of the first they broke. In the fall of 2011, Brooks wore a wire that allowed the feds to tape his conversations with other Gray staffers involved in the scandal, which has trapped at least one person so far and is likely to drag more of them down.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Gray's campaign treasurer Thomas Gore was arrested and pleaded guilty in course for having used Gray's campaign money to forge money orders in Brooks' son's and friend's names to pay Brown. Two days later, Brooks pleaded guilty to paying Brown with this money. Both Gore and Brooks have pleaded guilty, indicating that both have made deals with federal prosecutors to build their cases against others. So far, Lorraine Green and Vincent Gray have not been indicted, but they will be, it seems.

In addition to the Sulaimon Brown transaction, the feds raided the office of Jeffrey Thompson in March 2012. Thompson is a contractor who had contributed to Gray's campaign; his company subsequently won a managed-care contract to provide medical service to poor residents in DC. The contract was worth $355 million a year. Since the raid, the company was quickly sold to a different businessman.

Local politics is smaller and therefore easier to follow than national-level politics, and how very colorful. National politics can be just as juicy and delicious --- see the John Edwards trial --- but is more sophisticated and less likely to be exposed to the public with all the glorious details.

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