Councilwoman hopes end of corrupt elections is near

WASHINGTON – As yet another aide to Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign is charged in connection with a corruption investigation, Councilwoman Mary Cheh says any candidates who benefited from the so-called “shadow campaign” should come forward.

A former aide to Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign is accused of paying a witness to get out of town, then lying about it to investigators. Vernon Hawkins is expected Tuesday morning to become the latest aide tied to Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign to plead guilty.

Hawkins is charged with making false statements to investigators. He is accused of paying off the unnamed witness with cash funneled through Jeanne Clarke Harris, who has already pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme. Prosecutors say that cash came from Executive A — widely believed to be Jeffrey Thompson, who ran a business that had contracts with the District and is believed to have financed the “shadow campaign.”

Thompson has also funded other city-wide campaigns in the past, as further detailed this week in the Washington Post.

The allegations have Cheh calling for sharper action against former candidates, current councilmembers and even the mayor.

“If somebody comes into office as the beneficiary of the biggest election fraud in the history of the District of Columbia government, then holding that office is untenable. In other words, you should submit yourself to the voters again in a fair, honest election,” she says.

Cheh is one of several councilmembers who have called for Gray to resign in the wake of the ongoing investigation into his mayoral campaign.

“It almost doesn’t matter whether this was known or not, it’s that you were the beneficiary of such an extraordinarily large amount of unreported, effectively illegal money. It really does, to me, pull out the foundations for the legitimacy of some of these elections,” Cheh says.

Gray declined to comment about the ongoing investigation Monday.

“We are very tired and very disappointed in the steady drumbeat of illegal campaign behavior. The best that can happen now is for all of it to be put out there in the open. Everybody who’s been involved should be subject to the letter of the law and then let’s go forward in an honest, straightforward way from here on in. Let’s learn from this,” Cheh says.

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