Money-order donations totaled more than $56,000 — primarily from the city’s taxi industry — and are part of the $2.7 million war chest the Gray campaign amassed in last year’s defeat of incumbent Adrian M. Fenty, who spent nearly $5 million on his reelection bid.
Revelations about the money orders and cash follow allegations that Gray’s campaign paid and promised a job to Sulaimon Brown, a minor mayoral candidate, to entice him to stay in the race and disparage Fenty. The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating Brown’s allegations as part of a criminal probe; Gray has denied any wrongdoing.
Taken together, the allegations suggest that officials in Gray’s campaign either didn’t know the law or disregarded it.
“If there were mistakes that were made and they were willful, obviously, people should be held accountable,” said Gray, adding that because he was a late entry into the race, he had to quickly launch a campaign apparatus. “It was a truncated campaign. . . . It was very chaotic. You had to trust people to run what they were responsible for.”
It is unclear what led to the discrepancies among some of the 233 money-order contributions. Reuben O. Charles II, who oversaw much of the campaign’s fundraising efforts, did not return calls for comment; Howard L. Brooks, a campaign consultant who helped organized taxi industry support for Gray, declined to comment through his attorney.
“It’s easy for campaigns to get out of control. It’s becoming very clear that Vincent Gray had bad actors operating high in his campaign,” said Tony Bullock, a former senior adviser and director of communications for former mayor Anthony A. Williams. “But he is ultimately responsible for the people operating his campaign.”
The city’s Office of Campaign Finance is auditing the campaign, but spokesman Wesley Williams said the rules governing donations are clear.
“You’re not allowed to . . . knowingly accept [cash] and turn it into money orders,” Williams said. Contributors “can make the money order themselves, but you can’t make the money order for them.”
Any individual or political committee in violation of city campaign rules could face a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in prison. Anyone who “knowingly” misleads or files misleading reports can be fined up to $10,000 and receive a five-year prison term.
The mayor said that the campaign has complied with the OCF investigation and that a veteran of his previous campaigns, Thomas Gore, provided training material to staffers that specified rules about cash donations. Gore did not return calls seeking comment.