Ex-Mayoral Candidate Alleges Corruption During D.C. Primary
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And now, a story about corruption, cronyism, pay-for-play politics, high-profile firings, and even an investigation by a congressional committee, and it's not the new Matthew McConaughey movie either. It is real life here in Washington, D.C.
The cast of characters includes the recently-elected D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and one of his opponents in last year's Democratic primary, Sulaimon Brown. Brown, who has a history of run-ins with the law, says the Gray campaign paid him to stay in the race and to attack the incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty.
In exchange, he says, he was promised a senior post in the Gray administration, a promise that Brown says was not kept. Mayor Gray denies all of this.
The Washington Post's Nikita Stewart has been covering this story, and she joins me now to discuss the latest. Welcome to the program
Ms. NIKITA STEWART (Reporter, The Washington Post): Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: And let's start with Mayor Gray who's been in office for all of 10 weeks. If there was a honeymoon, I missed it.
Ms. STEWART: Yes, you definitely missed it. I think it lasted for about two days. What makes this story so compelling is that Mayor Gray ran against cronyism, against political corruption, things that he had accused the Fenty administration of. And now, it's almost like the finger is pointing back at him with these allegations.
SIEGEL: Yeah, Sulaimon Brown, is it true that he received all of 209 votes in the primary?
Ms. STEWART: Yes, but he was quite a character on the campaign trail. Sulaimon Brown began to draw attention to himself by saying: Vote Gray, vote Brown, vote any color, just please don't vote for Mayor Fenty.
It would really incite crowds, especially ones that were booing Mayor Fenty already. And, you know, he now says that it was his idea first but that the Gray campaign encouraged him to do it by giving him payments and by promising him that he would get a job when the mayor took office.
SIEGEL: Now, just to be clear here, the role that he played, it wasn't a very concealed role, stalking horse for Mayor Gray. He was saying: Better to vote for him than to vote for Fenty, and I'm staying in the race.
Ms. STEWART: Yes, he was a cheerleader. He was Gray's cheerleader, definitely. And so, a few weeks ago, I wrote a story about the mayor hiring several people and paying his employees more than employees were paid in the Fenty administration.
And in that article, I mentioned that, hey, guess what, Sulaimon Brown, his one-time opponent, got a job in the Department of Health Care Finance. That led to a lot of raised eyebrows. A few days later, Sulaimon Brown was fired.
In very dramatic fashion, he showed up at a press conference where the mayor was addressing his firing, and then the cheers came, and the next day, Sulaimon Brown told the Washington Post about these allegations.
And now here we are with the U.S. Attorney's Office assessing the situation, the Office of Campaign Finance investigating, and now we have a full investigation by a congressional committee led by Congressman Issa.
SIEGEL: Darrell Issa of California, who now chairs the House Oversight Committee. Mayor Gray, of course, defeated Adrian Fenty, who came into office as a reformer, really I guess lost a lot of public support. Most of the arguments, though, were about the school system and why he was firing teachers or not.
This feels like a very different mood that you're covering right now in the D.C. government.
Ms. STEWART: Yes, this is not what I expected to be covering. Mayor Gray is giving a State of the City Address on March 28th, and my understanding is that it's going to have many apologies and ask the city to stay with him and help him through the next three years.
SIEGEL: Okay, well, thanks for helping us today and telling us about that story. Nikita Stewart of the Washington Post, where she covers D.C. politics. Again, thanks.
Ms. STEWART: Thank you.
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