The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics yesterday authorized an investigation to determine whether mayoral candidate Dr. Morris Harper falsified his campaign financial reports to exaggerate the amount of contributions he had raised.
The investigation was prompted by a report in The Washington Post that about half the $131,500 in contributions claimed by Harper consisted of pledges. At least nine of the 144 contributors listed in Harper's financial statement, filed June 10, said they neither pledged nor gave the amounts attributed to them.
"The allegations in the newspaper, in my opinion, were very serious if proven to be true," said Lindell Tinsley, acting director of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, who was asked by the board to conduct the investigation. "The board took the initiative and issued a directive to move forward with a full and expedited investigation."
Board members Virginia P. Moye and Jeannine Clarke requested that Tinsley complete his investigation of Harper's campaign finances and report back with a recommendation by July 7. The D.C. campaign finance law provides for civil and criminal penalties for intentionally filing inaccurate reports of campaign contributions.
Harper, 34, a physician who is seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Earlier he denied that he intentionally inflated his campaign figures. He contended that some people who contributed to his campaign were trying to minimize their involvement or keep it secret because they feared political retribution from the incumbent administration.
Harper's campaign treasurer said recently the campaign had taken in only $56,000 of the $131,500 in reported contributions and that the rest was in pledges.
The city's campaign finance law broadly defines a contribution to include "a contract, promise, or agreement, whether or not legally enforceable, to make a contribution . . . "
But many of the persons listed as contributors who were reached by The Post, including some of Harper's former classmates at Howard University and Harvard medical school, denied they had given or pledged the amounts they were listed as having given. Several of them said they felt Harper had abused their friendship to try to advance his fledgling political career.