In 2010 there was a shadow campaign for the mayoral race. Then-mayor, Adrian Fenty ran a reelection campaign and current Mayor Vincent C. Gray ran two campaigns. Gray ran a mayoral campaign legitimately on the campaign finance books and he also ran a shadow campaign financed exclusively by businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson.
Thompson funneled more than $650,000 to the Gray campaign through the help of a 75-year-old public relations consultant, Jeanne Clarke Harris. Harris plead guilty in court to breaking federal and local campaign finance regulations. She admitted that she helped disburse and conceal the funds given by Thompson. She faces up to 30-37 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
She also admitted that while Thompson was the main financier of the shadow campaign there was another individual who coordinated the actual effort. She did not name who this person was.
Thompson owns D.C. Chartered Health Plan, a company that holds contracts to provide managed-care services for the city’s Medicaid and Alliance programs. Thompson is also a friend of Gray’s.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thompson’s money helped pay for food, luxury cars, yard signs, t-shirts, laptop computers, canvassers, drivers, umbrellas, stickers and lapel pins among other things. All of these items were delivered to Gray’s then campaign headquarters. Court reports also show that Thompson sent $566,000 to the Gray shadow campaign the last week before the primary to compete against Fenty.
Notable in the court’s reports, Thompson apparently tried to conceal the illegal actions with the shadow campaign by suggesting that Harris go to Brazil for 5 years to escape the statue of limitations of prosecution for the illegal campaign. However, Harris declined this offer, but this shows that Thompson willingly knew that he was participating in illegal acts that could cause Harris to be prosecuted.
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, who is presiding over the case said, “In 2010, the mayoral campaign was compromised by backroom deals, secret payments, and a flood of unreported cash.” The latest news, revealed through Harris brings this federal investigation into a deeper probe about when Mayor Gray knew the shadow campaign took place and if any other council members knew.
In court, Harris also revealed she held a meeting with Gray in his mayoral chambers on the sixth floor, on January 10th this year. Additionally, three sitting council members have called for Gray’s resignation. They include Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D- Ward 6) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).
While Thompson has not been charged, an investigation about his involvement is currently underway. Two of Gray’s other campaign operatives have also pleaded guilty to felonies over the past 6 months, Howard Brooks and the assistant campaign treasurer Thomas A. Gore. Former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown alleged Brooks gave him money orders totaling up to $2, 810.00 to continuously harangue Fenty during mayoral forums. In May, Brooks admitted his guilt.
Sulaimon Brown’s allegations last year helped set off the investigation into illegal campaign practices by the Gray campaign after he was fired from a D.C. government job. He has stated that he was promised a job with a lofty salary, in exchange for his negative remarks against Fenty during the campaign.
As Jeanne Clarke Harris continues to reveal more, there may be new players introduced into the tangled spider web of the shadow campaign. For now, Thompson hasn’t been charged and Gray hasn’t offered much on the investigations, but many are expecting Gray’s reign to fall very soon.