D.C. voters: You got punked.

The contest between Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray was a sham, with Gray getting an unfair and illegal assist from one of the city’s biggest contractors. Or at least, so says the chief federal prosecutor for the District.

“In 2010, the mayoral campaign was compromised by backroom deals, secret payments and a flood of unreported cash,” U.S. Attorney Ron Machen said today at a news conference.

Machen’s blunt assessment came after Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty to campaign corruption charges during a court hearing that laid bare a secret off-the-books shadow campaign to help Gray beat Fenty. Using money from Medicaid contractor and megadonor Jeff Thompson, who is unnamed in court records but identified as Harris’s co-conspirator by several people familiar with the investigation, Harris funneled more than $650,000 towards Gray campaign efforts. The money was spent on consultants (like Scott Bishop Sr., as LL reported last night), campaign t-shirts, rental vans, and other campaign expenses.

How much money was that in the context of the race? Gray only reported raising and spending about $2 million, so the shadow campaign represented about another third. (Fenty spent nearly $5 million, far more than Gray even with Thompson’s contributions.)

Some of what the money paid for: Nearly $40,000 for 9,890 yard signs; $10,530.82 for 120,000 door hangers; $1,802 for 200 umbrellas; and $33,208.77 for 6,500 t-shirts.

The shadow campaign was assisted by unnamed members of Gray’s official campaign, prosecutors say. The big question—what did Gray know about the illegal activity—remains for the moment unanswered.

Gray’s not saying anything, and Machen says the investigation into the mayor continues.

Did Gray actually need this stuff to win? Probably not, considering he was up against a mayor who spent all of election year with dismal approval ratings. Which only makes it that much more astounding.

More as LL puts it all together. Meanwhile, read the court filings Machen’s team submitted to support the plea agreement with Harris here:

[scribd id=99740126 key=key-pro0pk58n1gm5tj94d mode=list]

Photo by Darrow Montgomery