U.S. Attorney Ron Machen appears to be coming very close to the line, if he hasn't already crossed it, of prosecutorial misconduct in his zeal to 'get' Mayor Vincent Gray. If he has something on the mayor beyond just the words of an indicted criminal trying to save his own skin he owes it to the people of the District to release that TODAY. I am prepared to believe that the mayor lied if I am shown the proof of that but as of today there is no proof and instead a lot of innuendo. It is important to remember that each column written about Mayor Gray and each TV interview conducted includes the line, "The mayor has not been charged with a crime." That is the fact of the situation today.
My understanding is that while prosecutors have some leeway there is a policy they must follow that says they may not interfere in elections. Clearly at this point Machen is interfering in an election with nothing to show that what he hopes will as he says, "tie up loose ends" will ever come to pass. What is jarring is the possibility that Jeff Thompson, the sleazy and corrupt individual behind all this illegal campaign activity, could get away with what he did without any jail time at all.
I know Jeffrey Thompson having served with him on the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) for nearly five years. Saw him at meetings at least once a week for much of that time and had many conversations on a range of topics. He presented himself as a very successful businessman, always very well-dressed in expensive clothes and it was clear that he had a number of goals in life. They included making loads of money and making sure people knew he had it; garnering political influence though his connections and donations to many campaigns; and being seen as someone important and influential in the community. What was not obvious was how much of his political work was done illegally.
My appointment to the Board of UDC came after my chosen candidate in 1998, Anthony Williams, became mayor. My term on the board ended in 2005 when I publicly offered my support to Adrian Fenty before Williams announced he definitely wouldn't run for a third term. My contacts with Thompson became much less frequent after that but we did see each other at a number of political functions over the years. It wasn't till 2010 when my public statements about not endorsing Mr. Fenty for a second term became known that Mr. Thompson suggested we go for a meal at the Mayflower to talk politics. He was clearly worried about the race and what it would mean to his company Chartered Health which was receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the District. He listened to my thoughts on why Fenty would lose and why we would have a new mayor in January 2011.
Surely that was only one of many meetings Thompson had with people that convinced him he should hedge his bets and raise some money for the man who could be the next mayor while still publicly supporting Fenty. It was clear to those following D.C. politics that Fenty had lost the race before it began having alienated many of his original supporters and shown a total disdain for interacting with the community. When Gray got into the race, Fenty was down in the polls and could not recover even though in the end he had $1.5 million more than Gray even counting the 'shadow campaign' money from Thompson. It turned out that illegal money wasn't even needed.
Today the people of the District are facing a very difficult decision. They see all the indicators that the city is doing better than it ever has before. Even The Washington Post, with a vociferous anti-Gray editorial board, agrees that, "His first term has had solid accomplishments. The city's finances are robust. Crime is down. Schools are improving. People are moving in. Unemployment is creeping down." They add, "He had the good fortune to follow two mayors who put the city on sound footing... Mr. Gray, to his credit, opted not to change direction; he instead built on those strong foundations."
The voters in the District must now decide if they want Mr. Machen who is inserting himself into the election a week before early voting begins and less than three weeks until the primary, without providing any proof that the mayor committed a crime, to decide the D.C. election. Until any proof is offered I would urge voters to say no to Mr. Machen's interference and rather say to him that if he has proof of any wrongdoing decency and ethics would require him to release that proof now.