While Dzidzienyo struggled to pay his staffers and, at times, ran out of supplies, Hawkins’s efforts seemed flush. Dzidzienyo feared that Hawkins’s operation was siphoning funds from his budget.
He said he alerted Gray, fearing the unknown nature of Hawkins’s undertaking.
“Where is this money coming from?” he recalled asking Gray at a campaign church luncheon in August 2010.
Gray, he said, responded: “I don’t want to hear about problems. I just want to be the candidate.”
Dzidzienyo’s account is the first public allegation that Gray was made aware in the summer of 2010 of his own campaign staffers’ unease about the nameless funding of the side effort that would become known as the “shadow campaign” to get the then-D.C. Council chairman elected mayor.
About the time Dzidzienyo said he raised concerns, the shadow operation began ratcheting up its activities, eventually spending $653,000 to help win the election, according to a timetable described by federal prosecutors now investigating Gray’s mayoral bid. The money was not properly reported, as required by law, and operated outside Gray’s regular campaign operation, federal authorities said.
“I would be curious to hear what [Gray’s] response is when he says something, if he ever says something,” Dzidzienyo said. “There is a cloud over the mayor, and this city loses some of its credibility.”
Gray, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, declined to comment on Dzidzienyo’s assertion or other specific allegations regarding the shadow campaign. He has generally said, “This was not the campaign we intended to run.”
Prosecutors have said public-relations executive Jeanne Clarke Harris doled out the funds for the covert campaign over a few months.
On several occasions, Harris — from the back seat of her chauffeured Volvo — also fed instructions to aides on how to get out the vote, according to several people with knowledge of the Gray campaign. The aides would gather in an office adjacent to Gray’s campaign headquarters at Sixth Street NW — a conspicuous arrangement that also confused those who worked on the mayor’s campaign. Workers on the official campaign found Hawkins’s operation unnecessary, especially in light of the success Dzidzienyo was having with the field operation and straw polls.
Harris faces up to 37 years in prison after pleading guilty in July to conspiring to evade federal and local campaign laws and obstruction of justice in a federal probe that has ensnared two other Gray campaign associates. Consultant Howard L. Brooks and assistant treasurer Thomas W. Gore
pleaded guilty, acknowledging that they helped pay minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown to publicly disparage the incumbent, Adrian M. Fenty, during the campaign. Brooks has been sentenced
to two years’ probation.