As a candidate Suilamon Brown came across as unqualified for nearly any job except hurling accusations at Fenty. Yet he ended up in a $110,000-a-year position in Gray’s administration, which Brown said the mayor-to-be promised him in exchange for his help.
Gray admits that he promised Brown a job interview, but not a job. The Washington Post published text messages from Gray to Brown that have the mayor saying, “We did not renege on any commitments to you. You know and we know what agreements had been reached. And none has been breached.” After details of this story became public, Brown was eventually fired from his job.
So far two aides of Gray, including his close friend and assistant campaign treasurer Thomas Gore, have pleaded guilty in the investigation. Gore admitted in federal court in May that he gave unreported cash contributions to Brown for his help and lied about it. As U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said: “In 2010, the voters of the District of Columbia were deceived. Envelopes stuffed with fraudulent money orders prevented the public from knowing that one mayoral campaign was secretly financing the campaign of an opposing candidate.”
If Barry’s experience is any guide, Gray needn’t worry too much about a federal investigation. Corruption, drug possession and use, unreported campaign contributions — none of it necessarily ends a career in Washington. Through his arrest, trial and sentencing, Barry hung on as mayor until he left in 1991 for federal prison. He returned to win a seat on the city council in 1992 and ultimately returned to the mayor’s office in 1995, earning him the title Mayor for Life.
Washington’s tolerance for official crime doesn’t help its efforts to gain greater budget autonomy, win more voting power for the district’s delegate, or come closer to statehood. It does, however, help contribute to the city’s reputation as a laughingstock. Between the local and federal governments, it is a reputation that seems secure.