Some Democrats in Ward 8 are trying to get the FBI to oversee the D.C. mayoral election because they fear Adrian M. Fenty (D) and his ally, Ron Moten, will pay people to vote in the September primary.
Sandra Seegars said the concern stems from last month's Ward 8 Democratic Committee straw poll. After Fenty prevailed over D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray in the poll, community activist and blogger Dorothy Brizill reported that Moten paid several young adults to vote in the straw poll for Fenty.
Moten, the co-founder of Peaceoholics, strongly denies the allegation. But Seegars has complained to former U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, who is now a deputy associate attorney general, about Moten's alleged role in the campaign.
Last week, according to Seegars, she got a call from an FBI agent who questioned her for 45 minutes about the upcoming election and the vote-buying allegations.
"He was asking me why would anybody pay a person to vote in a straw poll," Seegars said.
Seegars identified the agent as Eric Hathaway. Reached by telephone today, Hathaway referred the call to the FBI's public affairs office. Lindsay Godwin, an FBI public affairs specialist, said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
But Godwin noted the agency routinely follows up on complaints from the public.
"We get so many complaints and we follow up on all of them," Godwin said. "It would not be abnormal for us to go out and talk to people...It's how we do our jobs."
At the straw poll, previously registered voters selected D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray over Fenty by a margin of 59 to 49. But about two dozen people, some at the urging of Moten, registered and voted on the same day as the event. When those votes were tallied, Fenty beat Gray by a margin of 69 to 61.
Seegars said she knows of three witnesses who overheard the new registrants boasting they were paid up to $100 each to vote for Fenty.
Moten counters that Seegars is engaged in "old school politics."
"Nobody paid nobody to vote in no straw poll," Moten said. "Why would I have a problem getting young people, who know the mayor has helped them over the years, to vote when I don't have a problem getting thousands of them to come out to marches and rallies?"
Jacque Patterson, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, also said he doesn't believe any voters were paid.
"Someone called and said people had been paid, but as far as I know, I don't think that happened," Patterson said.
The Ward 8 Democratic Committee executive committee, however, decided three weeks ago to toss out the ballots of the same-day registrants, handing Gray a victory.
But Seegars, an ANC commissioner and longtime activist, said she told Hathaway and Phillips she fears Moten and Fenty will pay others to vote on Election Day.
"We are trying to get someone to oversee the election," Seegars said. "We need a fair election. With $3 to $4 million in (Fenty's) war chest, he can pay a lot of people to vote."
Seegars has been in an increasingly nasty feud with Peaceoholics. Peaceoholics recently filed a libel suit against Seegars alleging she distributed "false, defamatory and disparaging messages" about the organization while opposing its plan for a new group home at 1300 Congress St. SE. Moten resigned as the organization's chief operating officer last fall, but he sits on its board of directors.