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D.C. Office of Campaign Finance looking into allegations against Gray's campaign

During the 2010 D.C. mayoral campaign, candidate Sulaimon Brown was a frequent and harsh critic of incumbent Adrian M. Fenty. He often urged voters to support Vincent C. Gray instead.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 4:08 AM

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has initiated a probe of allegations aired by mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, who alleges he made a deal with members of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's campaign team to trade a city job for political attacks on incumbent Adrian M. Fenty (D) before September's primary.

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"The matter is definitely under review," said Wesley Williams, a spokesman for the office. "We are reviewing the article as well as the reports, and we'll go from there in terms of determining a full investigation."

Brown also said that representatives of the Gray campaign - chairwoman Lorraine Green and consultant Howard Brooks - gave him cash payments in the "thousands" of dollars last summer. Some of that money, he said, was deposited in his campaign account and reported to OCF under false names. One person appearing in Brown's report said she had not donated to the campaign.

"All divisions are looking into the allegations," Williams said.

Gray (D), Green and Brooks have denied the allegations, and The Washington Post could not independently verify any payments.

The Office of Campaign Finance is charged with enforcing the District's local campaign regulations, including rules that require full disclosure of campaign disbursements and prohibit false reports.

Gray has asked Acting Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan to investigate the claims, and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) has asked Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby to look into the matter.

Some have suggested that U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen also initiate a probe.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office takes any allegations of corruption very seriously," said Bill Miller, a spokesman for Machen's office. "The office typically does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. At this time, the office has no comment on the allegations in this matter."

In an interview Monday, former D.C. attorney general Peter Nickles said the accusations should be investigated by an outside investigator with subpoena power.

"I think it's an extremely serious matter, and I guess the one reaction I have is I hope it doesn't get buried," Nickles said. "The way to bury something that is potentially severe is send it to someone who will investigate it the next two or three years. You need to move forward."

Nickles, who served under Fenty, said it would be a conflict for the District's attorney general to investigate because he was appointed by the mayor - although Nickles was tasked by Fenty on several occasions to look into political controversies.

Gray acknowledged Sunday that "missteps" were made in the vetting process for administration jobs. That same day, he accepted the resignation of Talib Karim, chief of staff of the Department of Health Care Finance, where Sulaimon Brown worked as a $110,000-a-year special assistant until he was dismissed late last month.

"I acknowledge we have made missteps," the mayor said. "We have taken steps to address those missteps."

Karim said he resigned because reports of a protective order filed by his wife three years ago had become a distraction.

Brown, who stands by his allegations about the mayoral campaign, was dismissed recently by Wayne Turnage, acting director at the Department of Health Care Finance, after media reports about a 2007 restraining order involving allegations that Brown stalked a 13-year-old girl.

Staff writers Keith Alexander, Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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