Alexander Faces Yet Another Challenger

Alexander Faces Yet Another Challenger
Written by James Wright, WI Staff Writer, Wednesday, 30 May 2012 01:53, Washington Informer

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) already has a Republican, Ron Moten, to face in the Nov. 6 general election but there’s talk on the street that she may have another competitor.

Tongues are wagging in Ward 7, which is primarily located east of the Anacostia River, that Tom Brown, a former Democratic Party primary foe, will wage a write-in campaign against Alexander. "I have heard talk about Tom Brown doing that," said Phillip Hammond, a longtime political activist and a three-term advisory neighborhood commissioner for 7B04. "I have no proof that he is going to do that, though."

Democratic, Republican and the D.C. Statehood Green party candidates who competed in the Tue., April 3 primary cannot run as independents in the general election because of D.C. law. They can, however, run as write-in candidates and campaign as such, but must still abide by D.C. campaign finance laws if they raise money.

While Alexander, 50, easily won the Democratic Party primary on Tue., April 3, she won with only 41 percent of the vote in a field of four active challengers [Monica Johnson, who got 73 votes, dropped out of the race before the day of the primary]. Brown finished second with nearly 22 percent of the vote and had the support of The Washington Post, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee and the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO.

Kemry Hughes, Brown’s campaign manager for the April 3 primary, said that he’s heard rumblings about a possible draft committee for Brown to run in the fall election.

"I have heard that there have been some meetings with some folks in the ward about a Tom Brown write-in effort but I do not know anything else because I am not a part of it," said Hughes, 50.
Hammond, 70, did confirm one former challenger to Alexander who will not run in the November general election.

"The candidate that I supported, Kevin B. Chavous, has decided not to pursue a write-in candidacy," he said.

D.C. Chamber Defends Its Defense of Vince Gray

D.C. Chamber Defends Its Defense of Vince Gray
Posted by Alan Suderman on May. 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm, Washington City Paper

LL’s forthcoming column takes a look at how Mayor Vince Gray is putting legal considerations before political ones by keeping quiet on the recent guilty pleas of some of his top campaign aides. Gray’s lawyer says he’s ordered the mayor to keep quiet, which may make for sound legal advice but is hardly reassuring to Gray’s supporters.

So what is the Gray administration to do if it can’t say anything about the confirmed corruption near the core of the 2010 campaign? One option is to hope for (or even ask) your friends to come to your defense.

Abracadabra! Along comes a statement posted on the D.C. Chamber of Commerce’s website from President and CEO Barbara Lang saying that while "it is natural that people are questioning the business community’s continued support" for Gray, Hizzoner deserves that support because his "leadership has proven beneficial for the city and the business community in numerous ways."

Continues Lang:

While we are very concerned about recent actions by the U.S. Attorney, it is evident that despite the turbulence, Mayor Gray is staying focused on doing his job—improving the city and lives of District residents. It is of the utmost importance that our Mayor be able to remain focused on his duty, and Mayor Gray has proven his ability to do so.

Man, the Gray administration probably could not have said it better itself. So what prompted Lang to sing the mayor’s praises? For the record, she says no one in the Wilson Building’s executive suite asked her to write it. She says the motivation was to issue a blanket response to the numerous media calls she’s been getting about the Chamber’s relationship with Gray.

It’s also worth noting the personal connections at work here. Lang’s husband, Gerald Lang, was a fundraiser for the Gray campaign and a member of the campaign’s finance committee. Lang is also close with campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green, and even attended the D.C. Council hearing where Green denied knowing anything about illegal payments the Gray campaign gave to Sulaimon Brown.

Republican gets Gray’s nod for senior post

Republican gets Gray’s nod for senior post

Alan Blinder, Examiner Staff Writer, Wed, 2012-05-30 13:17

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray did something unusual last week: He appointed a Republican to one of the most powerful posts in a city stocked with Democrats.

Christopher Geldart, who is set to take over the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency if he wins the approval of lawmakers, is a Republican, a senior Wilson Building official said.

Geldart, a former Marine, worked in the administration of former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, a Republican, and currently leads G2 Solutions, a consulting company he founded.

“Christopher Geldart has extensive experience in homeland security and emergency management,” Gray said in announcing Geldart’s appointment. “Keeping District residents and visitors safe in the event of any adverse event — natural or man-made — is one of our primary functions as government officials, and Mr. Geldart’s experience… suits him well to lead this crucial agency.”

Pedro Ribeiro, a Gray spokesman, said the mayor didn’t consider Geldart’s politics in making the appointment.

“The mayor doesn’t see this as a Republican or Democrat thing,” Ribeiro said. “He’s the most qualified person for the job.”

But Geldart’s appointment is still unusual since Gray has few opportunities to make appointments that cross party lines.

Democrats account for 75 percent of those on the voter rolls in the District, city records show, with Republicans making up only 6 percent.

D.C. law requires senior city employees to live within the District, giving Gray a shallow pool of Republican talent.

For the Geldart appointment, though, Gray searched beyond the District and persuaded his choice to move into the city to take the job.

Geldart will be replacing Millicent West, a holdover from the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty who abruptly left the city’s government in January.

West ran the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. at the time Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. used the non-profit to steal more than $353,000 in public money.

Although West has not been charged with any wrongdoing, she cited “distractions” in her resignation letter. The Gray administration later acknowledged that West had been forced out of her post.

Eatonville encounter figures big in determining Gray’s knowledge of payoff scheme

Posted at 02:47 PM ET, 05/29/2012

Eatonville encounter figures big in determining Gray’s knowledge of payoff scheme

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post

The chic 14th Street NW eatery is where Gray may have become directly involved in illicit dealings. (SUSAN BIDDLE – FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Last week’s guilty pleas in the federal investigation of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign have not directly implicated the mayor, but have prompted much speculation among chatterers (including yours truly) on whether or not they will actually touch the mayor directly.

And thus far, the speculation is, well, speculation. It’s stuff like: Vince Gray is a meticulous, detail-oriented guy — how could he have not known about the scheme? Or noting that Thomas Gore, de facto campaign treasurer and now admitted notebook-shredder, is a trusted friend of Gray’s who wouldn’t have done anything without his good buddy’s okay. And so forth.

But setting that speculation aside, charging documents have not named Gray as participating in the scheme to pay fringe candidate Sulaimon Brown in any way. They have, however, largely vindicated Brown’s version of events. And Brown’s version of events has Gray playing a personal role in the scheme during a meeting on Aug. 4, 2010, at the Eatonville restaurant.

The meeting would have happened late that night, after the candidates had participated in a rowdy Ward 4 candidates’ forum at a 16th Street NW church. (Post columnist Colby King gave a good account Saturday.) A straw poll of ward Democrats followed, one that Gray would win handily following a count that stretched into the wee hours of the next morning. But before the tally finished, most Gray partisans had already repaired to Eatonville where a “Young Professionals for Gray” fundraiser had morphed into a victory party.

Brown described what happened there in D.C. Council testimony:

I went to Eatonville and sat with Gray, who was talking on the phone at the time. He put up a finger, and I waited. Brooks showed up. Gray ended his phone call and said, “Let’s talk outside.” While we were outside, he thanked me for my help at the earlier Ward 4 debate, and said, “I think Howard” — referring to Howard Brooks — “has something for you.” Howard handed me an envelope that contained two money orders. There was one for $500 and one for [$150] along with some cash, and these are the two money orders here. It’s money order number 14085332525 and 140853325524.

In other words, Brown says he was paid off with Gray’s knowledge on the night of Aug. 4 or perhaps the early morning hours of Aug. 5.

Compare that to what Brooks admitted to in his Thursday guilty plea. The amounts line up — Brooks admitted to giving Brown two money orders together, worth $500 and $150 — but the dates are not a precise match: Prosecutors say Brooks bought the money orders “on or about” Aug. 4, the day of the Ward 4 event, and delivered them to Brown “on or before” Aug. 6.

Verifying the day of sale is a pretty straightforward affair: Virtually all money orders carry date and time stamps, and Brown kept copies of the money orders he was given. But the delivery date appears to be a matter of personal testimony, and if Brooks is saying he handed them to Brown on Aug. 6 — two days after the Ward 4 event — that would seem to contradict Brown’s Eatonville story.

But then again “on or before” means “on or before,” and keep in mind that little if anything Brown has claimed about the scheme has thus far been proven wrong.

Here’s what Gray said about the Eatonville allegation, back when he was still commenting on these things: “There’s no truth to it,” he said at a June 2011 news conference reported in the Washington Times. “I mean the logic of it doesn’t even hold — Have you been to Eatonville? … To step outside and have a conversation like this, whispering, it’s preposterous.”

By Mike DeBonis | 02:47 PM ET, 05/29/2012

Mayoral ambitions surfacing early in D.C.

An investigation that goes to the heart of our political system

An investigation that goes to the heart of our political system

By Washington Post Editorial Board, Published: May 23

THE ACCELERATING investigation into the 2010 election campaign of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has produced titillating revelations of bogus money orders, shredded records, a hidden wire and now, it appears, bald-faced lies to the FBI. But at the heart of the federal investigation is something precious and important: the integrity of the electoral process. What happened in 2010, as U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. made clear in a pull-no-punches statement, is that “the voters of the District of Columbia were deceived.”

The election of Mr. Gray (D), who campaigned against former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) on a theme of restoring integrity to government, was aided by secret payments, fraudulent filings, stealth deals and dirty tricks. Those responsible for these underhanded tactics — and Mr. Gray has not been charged — are rightly being held to account as federal prosecutors proceed with an investigation entering its second year. Sadly, though, there is no way to undo whatever influence their misdeeds had on the electoral process.

Mr. Machen, whose office brought criminal charges Wednesday against a second member of Mr. Gray’s campaign team, decried what he saw as “pretty shocking” and a “flagrant” abuse of the system. “We take seriously — very seriously,” he told us, “the imperative that people play by the rules, that elections be fair and transparent. When you cross the line, you tamper with our very system of government.”

That’s exactly what happened when operatives for Mr. Gray secretly financed the candidacy of minor mayoral hopeful Sulaimon Brown so that he could continue the fierce attacks on Mr. Fenty that helped undermine the Fenty campaign. It is impossible to say whether the dirty tricks changed the outcome of the primary. Mr. Fenty faced plenty of problems of his own making. But the Gray campaign would not have gone to such lengths unless its strategists believed the scheme would have an effect.

Federal prosecutors are reported to be examining more than Mr. Brown’s claims that he was paid off with campaign money and the promise of a city job. They also may be looking into allegations of a “shadow campaign” that operated outside of campaign finance rules.

Documents in the government’s case against campaign official Thomas W. Gore, who pleaded guilty this week for his role in funneling and then trying to hide funds to Mr. Brown, contains a reference to “excessive or unattributed cash contributions.” Howard Brooks, the campaign consultant named in a criminal information filed Wednesday that is a likely prelude to his guilty plea, is believed to be cooperating with federal prosecutors, as is Mr. Gore.

Did Mr. Gray know what was going on? If not, why not? The mayor, who previously has denied wrongdoing, has refused to comment on the charges involving Mr. Gore and Mr. Brooks. That’s understandable but not sustainable. Surely the public is owed an explanation, and an apology, for the events that now taint the 2010 election.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Howard Brooks becomes second Vincent Gray campaign worker charged in federal probe

Howard Brooks becomes second Vincent Gray campaign worker charged in federal probe

By Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post, Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2:45 PM

A second member of Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign was charged Wednesday in the wide-ranging federal investigation into the campaign’s alleged improprieties.

Howard Brooks, 64, a consultant to the mayor’s campaign, was accused of making a false statement to FBI agents. The charge came in a “criminal information,” a type of document that may be filed only with a defendant’s consent and signals a plea deal is near.

His attorney, Glenn F. Ivey, did not return phone messages or emails Wednesday morning.

Brooks was charged with making a false statement to FBI agents when he told them he never passed cash, money orders or other types of payments to a minor candidate in the race.

Brooks and another campaign worker, Thomas Gore, made such payments to keep minor candidate Sulaimon Brown in the race so the candidate could continue to assail incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty on the campaign trail, prosecutors have alleged. Brooks, who was a member of the campaign’s finance and treasury teams, was paid $44,000 for consulting work by the Gray campaign, records show.

Gray beat Fenty in the Democratic primary and then sailed to victory in general election.

“There is ongoing pending investigation, so there is nothing I can say at this stage because it is continuing to unfold,” Gray said Wednesday as he left the Wilson Building. “I’m focused on the city at this stage, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can. … I’m focused on the job I was elected to do and I’m working all day, every day.”

Gore, a long-time friend of Gray’s, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of violating D.C. election law and obstruction of justice.

Last year, Brown alleged that the payments were made by Lorraine A. Green, the campaign’s chairwoman, and by Brooks.

The contributions were made in the names of Brooks’s son, cousin-in-law and his son’s girlfriend. Both the son’s girlfriend and the cousin told The Post that they did not know Brown and did not make the contributions. Brooks’s son, Peyton, received immunity early in the investigation.

Thomas C. Green, an attorney for Lorraine Green, said earlier in the week, “My client has cooperated completely with the investigation, which I believe to be at an end so far as it involves her.”

That investigation sparked by Brown’s disclosure has since broadened into an inquiry of campaign finance and ties linking a prominent D.C. contractor to local political leaders.

In March, federal agents raided the home and offices of that contractor, Jeffrey Thompson, on the same day they searched the home and office of a public relations executive involved in the Gray election effort. Former Gray campaign workers and volunteers have also been questioned by federal authorities about an off-the-books “shadow campaign” that focused on getting out the vote.

Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

The American dream in an automobile

The American dream in an automobile

By George F. Will, Published: May 11

“You have a Prius. . . . You probably compost, sort all your recycling, and have a reusable shopping bag for your short drive to Whole Foods. You are the best! So, do we really need the Obama sticker?”

— The Portland Mercury, 2008

Prius, which is Latin for “to go before” or “lead the way,” is the perfect name for the car whose owners are confident they are leading the way for the benighted. “Prius preening,” an almost erotic pleasure, is, however, a perishable delight because the status derived from enlightened exclusivity evaporates if hoi polloi crash the party.

The connection between cars and self-image is as American as the anti-Prius, the F-150 pickup truck. This connection is the subject of the entertaining and instructive book “Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars” by Paul Ingrassia, a journalist knowledgeable about the automobile industry. He thinks the hinge of our history was the 1920s, when General Motors’ LaSalle was introduced as a conspicuous-consumption alternative to Henry Ford’s pedestrian, so to speak, Model T. Since then, Ingrassia says, American culture has been a tug of war “between the practical and the pretentious, the frugal versus the flamboyant, haute cuisine versus hot wings.”

The Model T, born in 1908, was priced at $850. By 1924, it was offered only in black but cost just $260 and had America on the move. Three years later — the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic — the LaSalle, a Cadillac sibling, announced Detroit’s determination to join Hollywood as a manufacturer of visual entertainment, but working in chrome rather than celluloid. The phrase “It’s a Duesie” became an American encomium in tribute to the Duesenberg, which sold for upward of $20,000, or $245,000 in today’s dollars.

In 1953, after almost 25 years of Depression and war, the Korean armistice signaled the restoration of the pleasure principle, as did the December appearance of two first editions — of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine and Chevrolet’s Corvette. That car’s designer, Zora Arkus-Duntov — English was his fourth language — explained: “In our age where the average person is a cog wheel who gets pushed in the subways, elevators, department stores, cafeterias . . . the ownership of a different car provides the means to ascertain his individuality to himself and everybody around.” Ere long, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Corvette license plate read “RES IPSA,” lawyer’s Latin for “It speaks for itself.” And loudly.

The 1950s brought tail fins (justified as safety devices — “directional stabilizers”) on land yachts such as the 21-foot-long 1959 Cadillac. A small-is-beautiful reaction came in the form of a car originally named the Kraft durch Freude Wagen (“Strength through Joy Car”), a clunky name no one criticized, because it was bestowed by the Volkswagen’s progenitor, Adolf Hitler, the unlikely father of the emblematic vehicle of 1960s hippies, the VW Microbus. (Steve Jobs sold his for startup capital for his business.)

Thanks to Ralph Nader, Chevrolet’s small Corvair begat a growth industry — lawsuits — and a president. (The Corvair made Nader famous, and 35 years later his 97,000 Florida votes gave George W. Bush the presidency.) Baby boomers had babies so they had to buy minivans, but got revenge against responsibilities by buying “the ultimate driving machine.” This is from a 1989 Los Angeles Times restaurant review: “There they are, the men with carefully wrinkled $800 sports jackets . . . the BMW cowboys . . .they’re all here, grazing among the arugula.”

Boomers, says Ingrassia, “had to buy to live, just as sharks had to swim to breathe.” They bought stuff that screamed: “Cognoscenti!” Dove bars — the ultimate ice cream bar? — not Eskimo Pies. Anchor Steam, not Budweiser. Starbucks, not Dunkin’ Donuts. And Perrier, when gas cost less than designer water. In 1978, an early reaction against all this made Ford’s F-150 pickup what it still is, America’s best-selling vehicle.

In 2003, Toyota previewed its second-generation Prius at Whole Foods supermarkets and an international yoga convention. And in the cartoon town of South Park, Priuses became so popular the town developed a huge cloud of “smug.”

Prius, vehicle of the vanguard of the intelligentsia, does not have the most obnoxious name ever given an automobile. In 1927, Studebaker, which anticipated the Prius mentality, named one of its models the Dictator. The car supposedly dictated standards that the unwashed would someday emulate. In the mid-1930s, Studebaker canceled the name.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

The public trial of Justice Roberts

The public trial of Justice Roberts

By Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Op-Ed, Published: May 22

Novelist John Grisham could hardly spin a more provocative fiction: The president and his surrogates mount an aggressive campaign to intimidate the chief justice of the United States, implying ruin and ridicule should he fail to vote in a pivotal case according to the ruling political party’s wishes.

If only it were fiction.

The justice is, of course, John Roberts and the case involves the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare, which would be affordable only if the Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance.

The left’s narrative goes as follows: If the justices side with the Obama administration, they will be viewed as brilliant and nonpartisan. If the reverse occurs, why then, the justices are partisan, judicial activists who have delegitimized the court.

Writing in the New Republic, Jeffrey Rosen laid it out for Roberts, whose vote is likely to be decisive: “In addition to deciding what kind of chief justice he wants to be, he has to decide what kind of legal conservatism he wants to embrace. Of course, if the Roberts court strikes down health care reform by a 5-4 vote, then the chief justice’s stated goal of presiding over a less divisive court will be viewed as an irredeemable failure.”

Lest there be any lingering confusion, permit me: Vote our way, Chief Justice Roberts, or you will go down in history as having abrogated your duty; your reputation will be destroyed; and the country will hold you accountable for not only withholding health care from the American people but also for rolling back the New Deal.

In so many words.

Wait, the New Deal? Yes, according to many on the left, including Rosen, if the court rolls back Obamacare, it will also roll back the New Deal. Legal scholars on the right insist otherwise, noting that lawyers for the plaintiffs were explicit in denying any interest in overturning precedents.

I leave this debate to others more worthy, but the idea that decisions must be popular and/or bipartisan is silly on its face. Just because something is popular doesn’t make it “right” or legally correct. And, difficult as this is to accept in our Twitter culture, Supreme Court justices needn’t be popular.

Nevertheless, the left is pushing many such non-legal arguments, including that the court shouldn’t overturn a “popular” legislative act. Even the president advanced this argument as recently as last month, although the ACA is not, in fact, all that popular.

Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama said: “Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy also recently publicly lobbied Roberts, saying he trusts that the chief justice has “a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial branch.” And, “it would be extraordinary for the Supreme Court not to defer to Congress in this matter that so clearly affects interstate commerce.”

This not-so-stealth campaign to influence the Supreme Court is obnoxious, if not unethical. It is also factually challenged. Overturning a law would not be unprecedented or extraordinary, as any first-year law student could tell you, but don’t take my word for it. Harvard University’s Laurence Tribe, one of Obama’s professors and a leading liberal scholar of constitutional law, said that his former student “obviously misspoke.”

It happens. Yet criticizing the Supreme Court is a consistent refrain from Obama, who began his presidency by scolding the justices. During his first State of the Union address, Obama broke decorum by justices for their Citizens United ruling, saying the court had “reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”

Talk about extraordinary.

Publicly chastising the court — and now taunting Roberts specifically — seems to have two purposes. One is to get under Roberts’s skin in the hopes that he’ll rule the “correct,” if not necessarily “legally correct,” way. Two is to lay the groundwork for declaring the court illegitimate if all or part of Obamacare is overturned.

Either way, it’s politics at its filthiest and is beneath the dignity of the court — and of the White House. Unfortunately for Roberts, it’s up to the chief justice to hold the bar high.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Govt. Aff. Alert – EBRI Report on Employment-Based Coverage (05-23-2012)

Government Affairs Alert – May 23 , 2012

EBRI_Notes_05_May-12.Hi-only.pdf

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