D.C. candidate Gray wants U.S. to probe alleged vote-buying by Fenty campaign

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his leading opponent, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, discussed unemployment, public safety and schools during a debate at the Newseum.
By Tim Craig and Ann E. Marimow
Friday, September 10, 2010

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said Thursday that he will ask federal law enforcement officials to investigate reports that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's reelection campaign offered young adults jobs in exchange for their votes, a potential violation of federal election law.

Gray and his advisers say they decided to turn to the FBI because they are increasingly worried about the integrity of the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

"We are deeply concerned," Gray said at a news conference in front of his campaign headquarters in Chinatown. "There are very few things that are more sacrosanct, sacred, than the voting process, and we want to make sure it's fully preserved in the city."

The FBI referred questions to the Justice Department's criminal division, which declined to comment.

On Wednesday night, WJLA-TV (ABC 7) aired a story in which three young adults said representatives of the Fenty campaign offered them $100-a-day jobs from Sept. 4 through the Sept. 14 primary if they agreed to be driven to an early voting location to cast their ballots for Fenty. The young adults said that they voted for Fenty but that the campaign did not follow through on its promise.

During an interview on camera, Rudolph Williams, 19, called a phone number he allegedly was told to contact about the job. The call, according to WJLA, was answered by someone the Fenty campaign confirmed worked at its headquarters.

"I had plenty of calls like this today," the campaign worker said on the call. "And they had to stop at a certain number because they had too many people."

Emerging from a pep rally with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to congratulate the high-performing School Without Walls Senior High School, Fenty was surrounded Thursday by reporters who pressed him about the allegations of vote-buying.

"We do extensive training. We let everybody know that's prohibited," Fenty said. "If there's an allegation that someone has made a mistake, bring it to us, and we'll take action."

But the mayor said his campaign was hindered from following up on the story because there was no specific information about the identity of the alleged driver from his campaign.

Under the campaign's "Code of Ethical Conduct," Fenty said, all volunteers and paid workers for the campaign are required to sign an ethics statement that prohibits them from offering or providing "anything of value to a person to encourage or induce that person to register to vote."

Top advisers to the Gray campaign said the WJLA stories bolstered their fears that the Fenty campaign was using part of the mayor's $5 million war chest to buy votes. "It is our belief, based upon information we have received, it's a widespread practice," said Lloyd Jordan, a senior Gray adviser overseeing his get-out-the-vote and legal strategy. "Not only are they using students, they are going to the homeless."

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