March 11, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT supporters remain loyal to Gray
Vincent Gray, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray has not been charged in the case of the so-called ‘shadow campaign.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Similar to their straight counterparts, many LGBT supporters of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said their commitment to his re-election has not wavered over allegations by the U.S. Attorney on Monday that Gray knew about an illegal scheme to raise more than $660,000 for his 2010 election campaign.

New details about Gray’s alleged knowledge of a so-called “shadow” campaign surfaced at a hearing in U.S. District Court Monday morning in which businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson pleaded guilty to secretly channeling more than $2 million in illegal contributions to federal and local political campaigns.

In a news conference following the court hearing, Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said someone identified in court documents as “Mayoral Candidate A” was among the recipients of the illegal contributions. Although Machen did not say so directly, it was clear to reporters and court observers that Mayor Vincent Gray was Mayoral Candidate A.

Machen declined to say whether Mayoral Candidate A or other candidates receiving illegal campaign contributions from Thompson were being targeted for prosecution, saying only that the government’s investigation was ongoing.

Gray has not been charged in the case and has repeatedly denied he had any knowledge of illegal actions by Thompson and others associated with the campaign.

“This doesn’t change my level of support for the mayor,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who has served as a volunteer fundraiser and coordinator of the Gray campaign’s outreach to the LGBT community. “In fact, it probably increases it.”

Hudson was among the Gray supporters that questioned Machen’s motive behind the government’s decision to file felony campaign violation charges against Thompson and linking Gray to the fundraising scheme less than a month before the city’s April 1 mayoral primary.

Gray told the Washington Post and at least two local TV news stations that Thompson’s accusations that he knew about the illegal campaign scheme were “lies.”

Noting that Thompson made the accusations as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty on Monday in exchange for a more lenient sentence and a promise to cooperate with prosecutors, Gray said Thompson’s credibility was in doubt.

Thompson, 58, is the former chairman and CEO of a company that had a multi-million dollar city contract to process Medicaid-related services and other health-related services for the D.C. government.

He pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal charge of conspiring to violate federal campaign finance laws and to submit false filings to the IRS. He also pleaded guilty to a D.C. offense of conspiring to violate D.C. campaign finance laws by “defrauding the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Jeff Thompson is a man who’s trying to cling to his freedom and offered allegations that have not been substantiated or repeated by anyone else,” Hudson told the Blade. “And until the U.S. Attorney provides evidence to the contrary, Mayor Gray is entitled to the presumption of innocence, especially when his reputation is far more valuable than an admitted felon.”

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, another Gray supporter, said he and others in the LGBT community were not condoning illegal campaign practices.

“I believe Thompson should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law as should anyone else found to have knowingly participated in his schemes,” Rosenstein said. “Knowing the mayor and Thompson I am still inclined to believe the mayor. If there is definitive proof the mayor knew what was going on the U.S. Attorney owes it to the citizens of the District to share it now,” he said.

“All I know is that Mayor Gray is a great friend of the LGBT community and denies the allegations,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. “Machen’s news conference and charges against Thompson seem suspiciously timed given the upcoming primary election, which is galling given the paternalistic position the U.S. Attorney is in over the District,” he said.

Rosendall was referring to longstanding complaints by D.C. home rule advocates that the city’s prosecutors are federally appointed rather than elected, as is the case with most other cities and states.

Transgender activist Ruby Corado, founder and director of the LGBT community center Casa Ruby, is among many in the city’s transgender community who view Gray’s support for transgender rights as groundbreaking and among the strongest in the nation for an elected official.

“Whatever happens, the only thing I know is I’m supporting the mayor,” Corado said. “I hope everything goes well for him. Nobody is perfect,” she said. “But I know the LGBT community is doing the right thing by standing with him.”

Lateefah Williams, an attorney and former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, was less certain about the impact of the U.S. Attorney’s actions on the LGBT community as a whole.

“I think the news surrounding Jeffrey Thompson’s guilty plea will have an impact on LGBT voters, just as it will have an impact on all other District voters,” Williams said. “Diehard Gray supporters will probably remain loyal, but those who are on the fence or who respect Gray’s accomplishments but have always been uncomfortable with the shadow campaign allegation, will find it much harder to support him,” she said.

Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen speaks at news conference about allegations linking Mayor Gray to ‘shadow’ campaign funds in 2010. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

During the news conference, Machen said the federal investigation into campaign finance law violations in D.C. was continuing and that the information released so far amounted to “the tip of the iceberg.”

In charging documents filed in court, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Thompson’s scheme involved making hidden and illegal campaign contributions totaling $1.3 to seven candidates seeking public office in D.C. between 2006 and 2011.

The documents also say Thompson funneled $608,750 between February and May 2008 for a shadow campaign for a U.S. presidential candidate. Last month, news media outlets reported they learned through sources that the presidential candidate was Hillary Clinton. Clinton has so far not commented on the reports, but people familiar with her 2008 presidential campaign have said she had no knowledge of the alleged shadow campaign.

In addition to the 2010 mayoral campaign, in which Gray was the alleged beneficiary, the charging documents say Thompson funded shadow campaigns for a candidate running in the city’s 2006 mayoral election; the 2007 special election for a Ward 4 Council seat; the 2008 election for an at-large Council seat; the 2010 elections for Ward 1 and Ward 6 Council seats; and the 2011 special election for an at-large Council seat.

Machen declined to name the Council candidates that allegedly received Thompson’s illegal contributions or to say whether they were under investigation for having knowledge of the illegal contributions. However, he said in a number of the cases under investigation, the candidate was unaware that the contributions were illegal and would not be a target for prosecution.

According to the charging documents, Thompson “disbursed approximately $140,000 in excessive and unreported corporate contributions” for a City Council candidate running in 2010 in Ward 1, where gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham was running for re-election. The Washington Post identified the candidate as Jeff Smith, one of two candidates challenging Graham in the Democratic primary.

“I have been seriously victimized by the huge illegal donation to my opponent,” Graham said in a statement released on Monday in referring to Thompson’s donation to Smith. “I want to note also that Jeff Smith failed to file his final month campaign report and his final total campaign report, which was very disturbing to me,” Graham said.

Smith couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

9 Comments
  • It is heady stuff to be bought-off by a mayor or to be simply wooed by the high office of a mayor of the nation’s capital. However, it is the causes of LGBTQ people that matters, not the title and trappings of power of one who dishonestly came to that high office.

    Good, ethically sound government demands more of chief executives than the arrogant denial of a disgraced president, Richard Nixon, “I am not a crook.”

    Free people demand more of their leaders than a criminal courtroom standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Overseeing the everyday DC government– that is the health, education, welfare and public safety of the lives of 650,000 citizens of the District of Columbia can NOT tolerate operating said government under a “reasonable doubt.” Rather it is the peoples’ government which must always be operated BEYOND a reasonable doubt.

    To be sure, it is not shameful to be fooled once by a dishonest politician. There are lots of us FORMER Vincent Gray supporters. But as the saying goes, “fool me twice, shame on me.”

    That line has now been crossed. Eight have pled GUILTY in this “tip of the iceberg” scandal, including the money man (aka, “Uncle Earl”) closest to one Vincent Gray.

    LGBT activists who continue to support the sleaze and dishonor with which Vincent Gray has betrayed DC’s LGBT residents– and all DC residents, now commence to sully their own judgments and reputations in endorsing the furtherance of Gray’s betrayal.

    The lessons of history are clear. It will only do more damage to each of their reputations the longer each waits to do the right thing.

    Vincent Gray should do the honorable thing, as well, and promptly resign the peoples’ Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia. DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson should be sworn in and serve as an interim mayor pending the election of a new mayor in November, and inauguration January next.

  • Why re-relect someone who lies? What else has he lied about?

  • This "news" of misconduct does not qualify as an allegation…in three years, no charges have been filed to serve that Vincent Gray is alleged to have done any wrong. What we have here is innuendo, released by a US Attorney at a very strategic moment, to discredit a Mayor who has championed the rights and welfare of the District's most oppressed and disadvantaged citizens. This "news" is a cheap shot, made in the press and outside of a courtroom, to alter the outcome of an upcoming election. Don't be manipulated. Vince Gray has the vision and commitment to really make DC "One City". We NEED for the progress to continue. Four More Years. *** GRAY 2014 ***

  • BRIAN, your logic follows your own repetitive bias. You don’t like Vincent Gray. Somehow, he must have injured your holy and almighty sense of self-importance. In spite of the fact that Vincent Gray has been a FORCE for LGBT equality, you repeatedly call out for his defeat in re-election, and now, his resignation. Who appointed you the spokesperson for the LGBT community? What have you done to earn our trust and respect? You lack both the commitment and courage to even attempt to serve as a representative; your cowardice prevents you from identifying yourself with a last name.

    It has been insinuated that the Mayor was actively engaged in the “shadow campaign” operated by Jeffrey Thompson. You bought that theory, and have never stopped repeating it. At this time, Thompson pleads guilty in a plea arrangement and in doing so implicates Vince Gray, Muriel Bowser, Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham, Hillary Clinton and only God knows how many others. You buy that theory as well, but your focus – as usual – is to direct your derisive comments at an individual who has championed LGBT rights. Does anyone in the Blade readership actually believe that we would have progressed as far as we have in the past three years under a second Fenty administration? Crawl back under your rock. Please. And yes, shame on you.

    This latest “news” of misconduct does not qualify as an allegation…in three years, no charges have been filed to serve that Vincent Gray is alleged to have done any wrong. What we have here is innuendo, released by a US Attorney at a very strategic moment, to discredit a Mayor who has championed the rights and welfare of the District’s most oppressed and disadvantaged citizens. This “news” is a cheap shot, made in the press and outside of a courtroom, to alter the outcome of an upcoming election. It boarders on prosecutorial misconduct! DON’T BE MANIPULATED. Vince Gray has the vision and commitment to really make DC “One City”. We NEED for the progress to continue. Four More Years. *** GRAY 2014 ***

  • Alexandra Beninda

    I am 100% in support of Mayor Gray because of what he has accomplished as Mayor for the Transgender community, for the LGBT community as a whole, for the Latino and Asian Pacific Islander community who have endorsed his re-election, and for what he done for all people across DC. If he were indicted and had to step down as Mayor, that would be a terrible thing for DC as a whole, but that has not happened and most likely will not happen. Mr. Thompson worked similarly with Ms. Bowser, Mr. Orange, and of course Ms. Clinton in her Presidential campaign, should they all be treated with the same scrutity?

  • ***************
    Why re-relect someone who lies? What else has he lied about? –Ron
    ***************
    Yep. That bit of common sense is essentially what judges tell juries. If you believe a witness lied about one thing, you can assume the witness lied about other things as well.

    Gray’s denials of his Shadow-gate are as laughable as Chris Christie’s Bridge-gate denials. TV news on-the-street interviews showed no sympathy for Gray’s denials yesterday.

    Gray has done more than lie, however. He stole an election for the highest office in this city. It also appears he used off-the-books campaign funds to enrich close family members, friends and political cronies– and/or to reimburse their illegal donations.

    So covering up police anti-LGBT hate crimes case data and lying about the city’s crimes stats, for example, is just more habitual behavior for this unethical mayor.

    It doesn’t matter who Gray helped while in a position to which he was elected by fraud. Gray’s accomplishments are ALL dirtied by his contempt for DC residents and DC’s electoral process.

    This week the Gray Campaign is trying to stall and hide from voter outrage using controlled, staged appearances– until early voting begins next week. But it is probable that Gray has also begun a longer journey that will send him to jail for all that wrongdoing.

    However, crooked politicos should not be allowed to drag residents, their election and a city government through months or years of criminal procedures so that a reduced plea bargained sentence can be had. Throw the book at Gray if he acts so contemptuously of the city and office he has betrayed.

    Also, Gray’s ‘friends’ valued as ethical LGBT activists ought to weigh their ‘friendships’– and what appears to be tacit support of a criminal coverup– with their commitment to our LGBT causes.

  • The entire premise of this article is ridiculous. There is an LGBT population in DC, not a “community” that these 4 people can speak for. LGBT people are rich, poor, black, white…and they don’t just vote on equality—something all of the candidates for mayor support. What I don’t support is a liar who was elected under false pretenses. This isn’t just a businessman vs. a politician. There will be federal charges, and the mayor will go to jail. Just a matter of time. And gay or straight, as taxpayers deserve better than that.

  • Wade, I agree with what you stated with exception. The Mayor is not a liar, will not be indicted, and will not go jail. He will be cleared, most probably very quietly, because innocence isn’t as newsworthy as baseless allegations.

    The Gray administration has championed human rights and the welfare of the disadvantaged. It has delivered an economic recovery, and a better future. District residents ARE worthy of that governance, and we deserve four more years of the same.

  • By accident I had coffee with Mr. Rosendall this morning and I agree with him that the Mayor, like anyone else, is innocent until proven guilty. Indeed I blogged on the topic today on our DC Libertarian campaign blog. But I think the LGBT community, like other minority groups, invest way too heavily, with all their eggs in one basket, in anyone who gives them some government sugar. And this may tarnish their image among the wider community when their heroes turn out to have feet of clay.

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