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U.S. Attorney Ron Machen has been investigating Vince Gray‘s 2010 campaign for three years, but one District lawyer thinks Machen should be the subject of an investigation of his own. In a letter to the D.C Bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility today, attorney and Gray supporter Brian Lederer calls for the bar to consider sanctions against Machen.
Lederer says Machen violated a swath of federal and professional rules in the press conference that followed Jeff Thompson‘s guilty plea. Instead of just talking about Thompson, Lederer says, Machen ran afoul of the rules by talking about “Candidate A,” the pseudonymous 2010 mayoral candidate who has been named in court as Gray.
“He went out of his way to put the mayor’s guilt in play, in political play, three weeks before the election,” Lederer says. “And it’s affected the election.”
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill Miller, who says he hadn’t read Lederer’s complaint, wouldn’t comment.
(Update, 9:00 a.m.: Miller sent LL a statement focusing on Machen’s use of the “Candidate A” alias during the press conference. “Consistent with Justice Department policy, the U.S. Attorney did not name or comment on the guilt of any uncharged individual during that press conference,” Miller writes. Read his full statement at the bottom of this post.)
Lederer also filed an Office of Campaign Finance complaint against an Adrian Fenty write-in campaign aimed at Gray in 2010.
Lederer, a former People’s Counsel and chairman of the Ward 3 Democrats, has donated $700 to Gray’s re-election effort. While he says he told Gray about his plans to file the complaint, Lederer says he didn’t get the idea to file the complaint from Gray’s campaign. Inspiration came instead, according to Lederer, from two Washington Post op-ed articles this weekend that were critical of Machen.
“When I read those articles, it was like, ‘Well, I’ve got to do something, at least take a professional stand,'” Lederer says.
U.S. Attorney’s Office statement:
The timing of this criminal investigation has been dictated by the state of the evidence, not by the news cycle or the election calendar. Jeffrey Thompson was finally ready to enter a guilty plea and acknowledge his crimes when he signed a plea agreement on March 7. Three days later, Mr. Thompson appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to plead guilty to secretly channeling more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to at least 28 political candidates and their campaigns. Mr. Thompson’s guilty plea was scheduled for next available court date rather than concealed from the public until after the election.
Following Mr. Thompson’s guilty plea – as is the usual practice in cases of such intense public interest – U.S. Attorney Machen and other law enforcement officials held a press conference to explain developments to the media and the public. The subject of this press conference was Mr. Thompson and his guilty plea. The U.S. Attorney explained that Mr. Thompson had acknowledged illegal spending in connection with one U.S. presidential, two mayoral, and six D.C. Council elections. The U.S. Attorney limited his presentation about the facts of the case to information contained in the publicly filed Statement of Offense that Mr. Thompson acknowledged under penalty of perjury in open court. Consistent with Justice Department policy, the U.S. Attorney did not name or comment on the guilt of any uncharged individual during that press conference.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery