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At his plea hearing last week, shadow campaign operative Vernon Hawkins described how, with help from Jeanne Clarke Harris and alleged financier Jeff Thompson, he planned the budget for the off-the-books effort to elect Vince Gray as mayor. But that wasn’t the only campaign budget Hawkins was shaping in the summer of 2010.
According to campaign emails and former campaign workers, Hawkins was also involved in discussions about the budget of the legitimate campaign to elect Gray.
In a July 5, 2010 email obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, campaign consultant Johnny Allem wrote to Sam Brooks, a one-time Gray campaign aide, about the campaign’s proposed field operations budget. “Budget is pretty much David and Vern,” Allem wrote, referring to Hawkins and David Dzidzienyo, the campaign’s field operations manager. By then, Hawkins had already met with Harris and created a draft form of the shadow campaign’s budget, according to his statement of offense.
Allem tells LL that he doesn’t remember writing the email, but confirms that Hawkins was involved in planning the campaign’s budget. “He certainly had input to the budget and certainly made budgetary plans at different times,” Allem says.
A 2010 Gray campaign consultant speaking to LL on condition of anonymity says the field budget proposed by Hawkins and Dzidzienyo was extensively cut (Dzidzienyo didn’t respond to a request for comment). Brooks, in another email, characterized Hawkins’ budget as “a joke.”
Hawkins’ involvement in both budgets, though, raises more questions about the overlap between Gray’s on-the-books campaign and the shadow campaign. The shadow campaign was housed next door to Gray’s campaign headquarters, according to Hawkins, and the illicit effort’s Get-Out-the-Vote coordinator worked on the same floor as the Gray campaign’s Get-Out-the-Vote coordinator.
William Lawler, Hawkins’ attorney, says Hawkins advised both campaigns. Still, he minimizes his client’s role in the budget planning. “Vernon was not a final decision maker in either instance,” says Lawler.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery