D.C. MAYOR Vincent C. Gray (D) said Saturday that there were “shortcomings” in his 2010 election campaign. It’s an oddly muted description for what the U.S. attorney has said was a criminal enterprise — a large-scale “shadow campaign” of illegal funding that helped elect Mr. Gray. Four of his campaign aides have been convicted of felonies in connection with this criminal enterprise.
Nomenclature might not matter if the euphemism didn’t bolster Mr. Gray’s stance that no further explanations are needed. In officially launching his reelection campaign Saturday, the mayor tried to make a virtue of his stonewalling. “It is time to turn the page,” he told supporters. “I know that some reporters prefer a circus to a thoughtful discussion of issues. I know that they care about ratings and selling newspapers.”
Actually, we like the idea of a thoughtful discussion of issues. But we also care about the integrity of democracy. We’re bothered by high-ranking officials who try to obstruct federal investigations. And we think it insults District residents to suggest that they shouldn’t — and don’t — care about what really happened in 2010.
Sadly, much is still not known about the criminal aspects of that election. Mr. Gray has never consented to speak with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He has refused to discuss the campaign in any detail with reporters. So many questions remain.
For example: When and how did he learn of the illegal shadow campaign that helped him defeat former mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Democratic primary? When Mr. Gray met after his election with the businessman alleged to have financed the shadow campaign, did they discuss the businessman’s city contract, made more lucrative by a subsequent decision of the Gray administration? Were concerns raised to him, as alleged by a former campaign worker, about the source of funding for field operations — operations conducted by a Gray associate who has since pleaded guilty to a felony?
Mr. Gray has said he did nothing wrong in his election campaign. No evidence exists to contradict that. But is that a high enough standard to merit reelection, or should voters expect some accountability for the mayoral campaign he led?
Mr. Gray’s record as mayor, his plans for the future, his capabilities compared with those of his challengers — all of these will be relevant to voters between now and the Democratic primary in April. But also relevant are judgments about trust and character. What does it say about Mr. Gray that he refuses to face the public and answer basic questions about his activities four years ago? The way to earn the people’s trust would be by leveling with them.