It is unclear who assembled the list or how the campaign got it, but two campaign workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing federal investigation, said it was used in the final week before the Democratic primary election to register residents and get voters to the polls. The workers said the tenant roster was a tool used to target people the Gray campaign thought would support him over then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
The list helped Gray’s campaign identify residents thought to be among the most sympathetic to his cause but who generally have not turned out in significant numbers in city elections.
The task of identifying potential voters changed with the 2010 primary, the first time the District allowed same-day voter registration and early voting. The Gray campaign engaged in a citywide strategy but stressed reaching out to seniors and public housing residents, the two former workers said.
Housing lawyers consulted by The Post said the use of such a list by a political campaign could violate a variety of laws and regulations, both federal and local, starting with the prohibition against using government resources for political purposes.
David Gilmore, who led housing authorities in several cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Boston, and is now a consultant, said he was shocked that an official list of public housing residents would end up in the hands of a political campaign.
“They absolutely have an ironclad responsibility to keep that stuff private,” he said of housing authorities.
The D.C. Housing Authority said it did not release the information and would not have done so even under a public records request. There is no record of a Freedom of Information Act request for the residents’ data in 2010, spokeswoman Dena Michaelson said.
Gray said he was unaware that his campaign staff had a database of public housing dwellers. “Frankly, such a list wouldn’t have been of any use,” Gray said in a statement. “My long-standing personal relationships with many community leaders in public housing allowed me to connect directly with people in these neighborhoods.”
The existence of the database and the campaign’s alleged use is the latest in a series of revelations about Gray’s 2010 election, which U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. has said was “compromised by backroom deals, secret payments and a flood of unreported cash.”
Machen’s investigation has led to guilty pleas from two campaign aides in a scheme to secretly pay a minor mayoral candidate to disparage Fenty and, most recently, a public relations consultant who admitted to orchestrating a $653,800 off-the-books “shadow campaign” to help get Gray elected.