Scott Bishop Sr., a longtime local campaign field organizer, says Jeanne Clarke Harris, who is expected to plead guilty tomorrow on conspiracy and fraud charges, paid him to put up signs and do other field work for Mayor Vince Gray‘s 2010 campaign.
Another campaign aide to Vince Gray, who asked not to be named because of the ongoing federal investigation, confirmed that Bishop put up signs for Gray. There is no record in Gray’s campaign finance reports that Bishop was ever paid. It’s not clear how much Harris paid Bishop. Harris’ attorney, Fred Cooke Jr., did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Neither did a spokesman for the mayor.
A few months ago, Bishop told LL he’d “sort of” worked for the Gray campaign, but wasn’t paid directly by the organization; a few weeks ago, he had told LL that Harris had paid him, but wouldn’t let LL use his name. Tonight, he says LL can go ahead, because of Harris’ imminent guilty plea.
Bishop’s involvement underscores reports by both LL and the Washington Post that federal prosecutors are focusing their investigation of Gray’s 2010 run on an alleged off-the-books “shadow campaign” that conducted operations without disclosing expenditures or the source of the funds that paid for them. LL and the Post have both reported that the investigation was looking at Vernon Hawkins, a political operative and friend of Gray’s who sources said weighed in frequently on campaign matters (though financial records don’t show he was paid for the 2010 race). The Post reported that one of Harris’ companies, Details International, paid an out-of-town political consultant, Tracy Hardy, who coordinated with Hawkins on Gray campaign matters. (The Post also reported that the campaign paid Harris $20,000 for what the administration now says was to buy ads, but she returned the check and didn’t do the work.) LL has also previously reported that Gray’s campaign driver and longtime Harris family friend, Mark Long, was not paid for his long hours as Gray’s driver. But financial records for another campaign from late 2010 show that around the same time he was driving Gray, Long listed one of Harris’s companies as his employer. LL has also noted recently that two companies that made signs for the Gray campaign have given records to the feds.
In court records filed today, the feds allege that Harris received money from an unnamed co-conspirator, who is almost certainly Medicaid contractor and megadonor Jeff Thompson. The money was used, the feds say, to make tens of thousands of dollars worth of straw donations to various candidates. The feds also say that another of Harris’ companies, Belle International, improperly deducted more than $900,000 in political contributions from 2010 tax forms; political contributions aren’t tax deductible.
During the 2010 mayoral campaign, Bishop says, Harris often clashed with Hawkins over money, as well as over specific details about how certain communities should be targeted. (Hawkins couldn’t be reached through his attorney either—his attorney is also Cooke.) Bishop recalls being in the middle of one tiff between Hawkins and Harris in which Hawkins insisted that “the candidate,” meaning Gray, was on his side.
“Fuck the candidate,” Harris told Bishop, he says. That argument, Bishop says, ended as they all did: with Harris getting her way.
“The bottom line is that Jeanne would have her way in everything,” says Bishop.
If Bishop’s name sounds familiar, it should: Longtime political watchers will recall he was made the fall guy during former Mayor Anthony Williams‘ petition crisis in 2002.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery