Gray supporters accused of luring voters to polls with gift cards

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; C05

On the last day of early voting in District neighborhoods, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign accused D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray supporters of attempting to lure voters to a polling site with supermarket gift cards.

Saturday night, a Fenty supporter uploaded a video to YouTube that shows an unidentified woman with a camera talking to another woman in a parking lot about how to obtain the Giant gift card.

In the shaky video, a woman tells the woman with the hidden camera she has to "get on the van" if she wants a $10 gift card.

"We are going to buy you lunch," the one woman says. "If you get on our van, and go vote, and get back on, I will be right here."

The woman asking about the gift card then asks, "Who do I got to vote for, Gray?"

"No, we are nonpartisan, you can vote for whoever, you can vote for yourself," the other states.

Later, the woman with the camera asks a man, "Is that the Gray van?"

"Yes, ma'am," she's told.

A Board of Elections and Ethics official said Saturday night that the board is aware of the allegation and is forwarding information to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Since midweek, Fenty has been battling allegations that a supporter offered young adults $100-a-day jobs to vote for the mayor. Gray has called for a federal investigation into the allegations, first reported by WJLA (Channel 7).

In the video, there is no documentation that any gift cards were exchanged and no footage of a van. The video, uploaded by Fenty campaign adviser Ronald Moten, ends with the woman with the camera getting back into a car, stating, "We got 'em."

Mo Elleithee, a senior strategist for the Gray campaign, said the video "speaks for itself."

"I think Ronald Moten and the Fenty campaign are showing how desperate they are at this point," Elleithee said. "Perhaps if they put half as much effort into finding who in their organization has been buying votes as they are into manufacturing videos about others, then maybe, maybe they would have a little bit of credibility and integrity left."

The Fenty campaign deferred comment to a campaign lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.

Under federal law, someone convicted of paying or accepting payment for registering to vote or voting can be fined as much as $10,000 or imprisoned for as long as five years. But elected officials have said it's longstanding practice for campaigns to provide some voters with free meals to encourage turnout.

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