A District audit released Monday of former D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 election campaign found that it paid thousands in cash to poll workers and kept incomplete records of more than $800,000 in contributions.
The findings by the city’s Office of Campaign Finance renew old questions about how Gray beat then-incumbent Adrian M. Fenty in the Democratic primary and expose his former campaign committee to potential fines. The release comes weeks before Gray is expected to announce whether he will make a redemptive run for a seat on the D.C. Council.
The report recommended no criminal charges against Gray.
Its release follows a decision by federal prosecutors late last year to close out an investigation into a “shadow campaign” run on Gray’s behalf involving more than $650,000 in unreported contributions, without charging the former mayor.
The audit found $141,000 in unreported receipts among Gray’s more than $2.7 million in reported campaign contributions and expenses. Auditors also said there were “irreconcilable differences” of almost $32,000 between reported campaign receipts and bank records.
The amounts the audit tied to incomplete or unaccounted-for funds dwarfed those uncovered in any recent audit of a D.C. political campaign, making the likelihood high that Gray’s campaign would face monetary fines.
Gray’s campaign could be fined thousands, and possibly tens of thousands, if each violation is counted as a separate infraction of city election law, according to a schedule of fines.
Decisions on such fines can take months, meaning the final fallout from Gray’s 2010 campaign could remain unknown before the city’s primary in June.
In a statement Monday, Gray said “the matter of the 2010 campaign is unacceptable to me. At present, an experienced campaign finance attorney is working to rectify the situation.”
Gray blamed the shoddy record-keeping on leaders of his 2010 campaign staff, including some members who have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the shadow campaign.
“I am disappointed with my 2010 staff for failing to properly maintain records and account for financial transactions,” Gray said.
He also said that the wrongdoing ended with poor record-keeping, and nothing criminal.
“It is important to note that the OCF findings detail poor accounting and management, not wrongdoing or malfeasance,” Gray said.
Although many discrepancies in Gray’s 2010 campaign spending had been previously dissected in news accounts, the audit provided new details about the use of what is sometimes referred to as “walking-around money” for campaigns to pay workers to get supporters to the polls on the day of the primary or during early voting.
The audit found that Gray’s campaign paid $11,848 to nine ward coordinators for cash disbursements. An additional $9,343 went to six individuals for “polling/mailing lists,” and $26,684 went to six ward coordinators for more “polling” near primary day.
In all, the audit found $103,348 in such expenditures, often from cash withdrawn from the committee’s bank account by its treasurer. Such expenses are supposed to be paid for by check, and the campaign later provided invoices and other documents for almost $94,000 of the costs. But auditors wrote that they were “unable to directly connect” the documentation to the payments and the individuals who worked on the campaign.
The audit also said that for 2,568 contributions, totaling $855,000, the committee initially failed to provide copies of checks, money orders or other documentation to support the receipts. Auditors said that the campaign eventually was able to produce the documents.
The audit noted irregularities of payments made to the campaign via money order, an issue that had also been prevalent in the shadow campaign.
But it was primarily the cash disbursements before the primary election and incomplete receipts for some expenses that drove auditors to recommend sending their findings to the Office of Campaign Finance’s general counsel, who will consider fines.
The fines would be assessed on Gray’s 2010 campaign committee, which remains an active account. Unpaid fines or pending ones would not preclude Gray from setting up a new campaign account to run for D.C. Council.