NOTHING ABOUT THE 2010 campaign to elect Vincent C. Gray mayor should come as a shock anymore. We know already of a tawdry scheme to pay off a candidate to attack Mr. Gray’s opponent and of a shadow campaign that illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly from a businessman with D.C. government interests, to help elect Mr. Gray (D).
Nonetheless, it is astonishing — and deeply offensive — to learn that government resources were apparently misused and people’s privacy breached to give Mr. Gray a leg up in getting out the vote.
The Post’s Nikita Stewart and Mike DeBonis reported this week that the campaign used a city database identifying 6,000 public-housing residents as part of its get-out-the-vote effort two years ago. According to The Post, which obtained the database and quoted unnamed campaign workers, the list was used in the final week before Mr. Gray’s hotly contested Democratic primary against then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to register voters and get them to the polls. The use of the list — a likely violation of local and federal laws that bar the use of government resources for political purposes — seemingly paid off: The Post’s analysis showed dramatic increases in voter turnout over 2006 in key precincts with high concentrations of public housing, with the majority of votes going to Mr. Gray. Same-day registrations, an indication of new voters, were also high in those precincts.
Using lists to identify and exhort potential supporters to get to the polls is an old political practice, but law-abiding campaigns use publicly available information. People who live in public housing — or receive government assistance, visit public health clinics or register their cars — expect government to safeguard their personal data, not to turn it over to others for political advantage.
Mr. Gray says he had no idea that his 2010 campaign had the list of residents. His son, Carlos Gray, who works for the city’s Housing Authority, also denied knowing about the database. The Housing Authority said it plans a review, but its main interest seems to be in preventing future abuses rather than determining responsibility for the 2010 breach. It’s unclear whether federal authorities, who have examined various aspects of Mr. Gray’s mayoral campaign, are investigating.
“Frankly, such a list wouldn’t have been of any use,” Mr. Gray said in a statement that breezily dismissed the database’s import. The mayor’s claim that his long-standing relationships with community leaders in public housing rendered this list superfluous brings to mind other arguments that have been advanced when questions have been raised about the conduct of his campaign. Sulaimon Brown’s attacks on Mr. Fenty were ineffectual, the mayor’s backers say; the expenditures of the shadow campaign were unnecessary, because Mr. Gray would have won anyway.
Each new revelation of a dirty trick or an illegal campaign expenditure or an ill-gotten list renders such claims less believable. If Mr. Gray was such a shoo-in, why were all these tactics employed?