Gray faces federal scrutiny amid alleged campaign finance violations

Federal investigators are scoping out allegations of an unreported get-out-the-vote effort against alumnus and Mayor Vincent Gray, according to reports from multiple former campaign staffers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is digging into his campaign records for details on a get-out-the-vote effort that funneled extra money into his campaign chest when the alumnus was battling against former incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty, according to what Gray’s former staffers told The Washington Post.

The operation that distributed literature and got voters to the polls, according to The Post’s March 21 article, was kept out of D.C. campaign finance records that require candidates to report all spending on city campaigns.

Rob Marus, a spokesman for Gray’s office, declined to comment on the allegations.

“There is nothing else we can say at the moment, since we are under federal investigation,” Marus said.

The under-the-rug operation added more hands and dollars to the campaign during its fledgling stages, according to The Post, although few specifics are available as the investigation continues.

Gray has been plagued with ethical probes into his campaign operations since he entered office, including a March 2011 U.S. House of Representatives investigation into claims by former mayoral candidate and ex-D.C. employee Sulaimon Brown that Gray paid and promised him a job if he bashed Fenty during the race. A D.C. Council report slammed the alumnus in August 2011 for allegedly having shady hiring practices and paying his top officials sums above legal limits.

The congressional probe later dismissed wrongful hiring allegations against Gray in November 2011, citing Brown’s lack of credibility.

John Samples, a campaign finance scholar and director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute – a public policy think tank in the District – said Gray’s future political success would depend on how long the scandal “stays alive.”

“Because he probably has a couple more years before he has to run again, depending on the size of the backlash, it will probably blow over for him,” Samples said.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on potential punishments should the shadow campaign probe find Gray guilty, and also declined to provide the typical maximum punishment for similar cases.

“I cannot speculate on this case or any hypothetical case at this time,” he said.

GW has collaborated with Gray to hold job fairs and touted its strong relationship with the alumnus since he took office. When asked if the University will keep up that level of support for the mayor, a spokeswoman said GW will maintain the relationship.

“The University continues to work with Mayor Gray and his administration for the betterment of the District,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. “While the allegations are serious, they are being investigated.”

She said GW supports all its alumni and is “proud of their achievements.”

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