Two other Gray campaign operatives have pleaded guilty to federal felonies related to illicit payoffs made to Sulaimon Brown, a mayoral candidate who alleges that he was paid to verbally harass the incumbent, Adrian M. Fenty (D).
The city audit of the Gray campaign, expected to be scathing, is pending.
In light of disclosures by prosecutors, the campaign finance office is “expanding the scope” of its efforts to include the $653,800 in unreported expenditures, said Wesley Williams, an agency spokesman.
During his first public appearance after Harris’s plea Wednesday, Gray declined to address specifics, but he decried the idea of a “shadow campaign” in general terms. “This is not the campaign that we intended to run,” he said.
However, three former colleagues on the D.C. Council called on Gray to step down — David A. Catania (I-At Large), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).
“The people you chose to surround yourself with engaged in a criminal conspiracy to undermine the election process in this city, which means as the leader of that campaign, you forfeit the fruits of that effort,” Catania said.
He said he considered it immaterial whether Gray knew about campaign violations. He also said: “Does any reasonable person believe that Jeff Thompson invested $653,000 in a shadow campaign and didn’t tell the beneficiary? That makes no sense. None.”
Cheh, who supported Gray’s campaign against the inclinations of many of her constituents, left the mayor a voice-mail message late Wednesday telling him that she was calling for his resignation.
“I don’t see how there is any way out except by him stepping aside,” Cheh said. “The more I thought about it, whether he knew about it or not, it’s such an extraordinary election fraud, he has to take responsibility for it.”
Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, called Gray’s situation as one that is described in law books as “willful blindness.”
“How could all this go on and you don’t know?” Cheh asked.
Bowser also said Gray should resign because the public has been asking him for months to disclose what he knew about problems with his campaign. “The best thing a person who loves this city could do for this city is to step aside so he can concentrate on his legal issues and we can get on with the business of the city,” said Bowser, who supported Fenty in 2010 and is now mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said in a statement that the spending revelations are disturbing but that it is premature to call for Gray to resign when he has not been charged with a crime. In a mild rebuke to his colleagues, Mendelson said the call for Gray’s resignation “creates instability at a time when we need just the opposite.”