WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — An assistant treasurer for District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign was charged Monday with making straw donations to another mayoral candidate and destroying evidence, the first charges in a more than yearlong federal probe that has dogged the mayor since he took office.
Thomas Gore, 56, was charged Monday in a criminal information, a charging document that typically indicates a defendant plans to plead guilty. He faces four counts, including obstruction of justice, a felony, for allegedly destroying a spiral notebook containing a record of payments by Gray’s campaign to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate.
Brown long accused Gray campaign officials of giving him cash and promising him a job in the Gray administration in exchange for his negative comments about then-mayor Adrian Fenty. Brown said Gray was aware of the payments and has told federal investigators that Gray handed him a list of talking points to use against Fenty. Gray has denied any knowledge of the payments and said he did not give Brown talking points.
Brown was briefly hired by the Gray administration for a $110,000-a-year job in the district’s Department of Health Care Finance. He was fired after less than four weeks in the position.
Gore also is charged with making three straw donations to Brown’s campaign, all money orders. One was for $335, and the other two were for $100. Although Brown is referred to in the charging document only as “Candidate B,” the dates, amounts and serial numbers for the money orders match copies of money orders that Brown has provided to reporters and to other entities investigating Gray’s hiring practices.
Brown has said he received the money orders from Howard Brooks, a Gray campaign volunteer and a friend of Lorraine Greene. Greene was Gray’s campaign chairwoman and was formerly a close friend and confidant of Gray.
According to the document, Gore destroyed the evidence of payments to Brown on or about March 6, 2011 — the same day The Washington Post broke the news that Brown was alleging a quid pro quo with the Gray campaign.
Gore’s attorney, Frederick Cooke, declined to address the substance of the charges. Asked whether his client was cooperating with federal investigators, Cooke said Gore was answering their questions but did not wear a wire or do any undercover work.
Asked how his client was holding up, Cooke said, “He’s doing fine under the circumstances. I’m sure he’s not particularly happy about this, but he’ll get through it.”
No court date for Gore was immediately scheduled. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and the three campaign finance charges are misdemeanors that carry a maximum of six months. If Gore were to plead guilty, he would receive a small fraction of that time under federal sentencing guidelines.
Gray, 69, defeated Fenty in 2010 after running as the more ethical candidate, criticizing Fenty for, among other things, steering lucrative city government business to his fraternity brothers. The electorate was largely divided along racial and socioeconomic lines, with voters in less affluent, mostly black wards of the city favoring Gray, who is black, and wealthier white voters backing Fenty, who is biracial.
The mayor’s administration was quickly put on the defensive by a series of blunders. Along with hiring Brown, who has a criminal record and was fired for what the administration called erratic behavior, the administration hired the adult children of several top aides. He also paid inflated salaries to some of his top staff.
Gray, who was in Las Vegas on Monday for a retailers’ convention, declined through a spokesman to comment on the charges. Gray’s spokesman directed inquiries to the mayor’s attorney, Robert Bennett, who also declined to comment, citing the pending investigation.
Gore, a native Washingtonian, is a longtime friend of Gray’s who served as treasurer in his past campaigns, although he did not take on that role in a formal capacity during Gray’s 2010 bid. He is the president and executive director of a nonprofit, Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc., which has received more than $800,000 in contracts from the city to run youth programs. Those contracts predate the Gray administration.
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