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Mayor Vince Gray has an odd way of showing his support for good government.
Instead of responding directly to allegations that his 2010 mayoral campaign was a hotbed of corruption illegally funded by a city contractor, Gray had his attorney general draft new legislation aimed at undoing the city’s “pay-to-play” culture. Yeah, you read that right: The man whose campaign federal prosecutors say benefited from $700,000 in illegal donations from Medicaid contractor Jeff Thompson wants to make sure there isn’t “even the appearance of corruption” in city politics.
Attorney General Irv Nathan already outlined the Gray administration’s campaign finance reform proposals earlier this summer, but today he joined the mayor at an awkward news conference to tout the proposed legislation. The mayor wants to block contractors from giving to politicians, prohibit lobbyists from bundling donations, and make candidates more responsible for any wrongdoing that occurs during their campaigns. That last point is especially ironic, as the mayor’s limited defense of his campaign has centered on the fact that he was ignorant of any wrongdoing that occurred.
If this feels like a bit of a P.R. stunt, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. It’s not that these proposals are bad; many of them are good ideas, long overdue. It’s just that the mayor is the last person on earth who should be proposing them. This is like Harry Thomas Jr. giving management advice to nonprofits.
But neither Gray nor Nathan appeared especially eager to talk irony at today’s presser. Instead, the mayor said his proposal should stand on its own merits, and that he was going to make it a top priority to see it pass the D.C. Council. We’ll see.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery