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Cora Barry organized gift card giveaway

UPDATED 7:45 A.M.

GotB_flyer.jpg

Cora Masters Barry, the estranged wife of Ward 8 council member and former mayor Marion Barry, is claiming responsibility for an effort to reward voters with supermarket gift cards.

On Saturday, supporters of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign secretly videotaped voters receiving $10 gift cards outside the Giant on Alabama Avenue SE. The Fenty camp alleged that the scheme was intended to buy votes for rival Vincent C. Gray, though the tape does not show anyone telling residents to vote for Gray.

It was the "Ward 8 Voter Assurance Unity Campaign," Cora Masters Barry said, that ran vans and buses and offered the gift cards to voters Saturday. She denied any connection to either mayoral campaign. "It was not anything to do with Vincent Gray," she said, describing it as "a mom and pop operation by the seat of our pants."

Gray on Sunday denied any involvement.

Barry declined to name who is involved in the group, saying only that "six or seven people in the community," including advisory neighborhood commissioners, were part of the organization. Nor did she give details on how gift cards were paid for.

"It ain't no big high finance. A lot of stuff was donated. When you tell people you're just trying to get the vote out and you're not speaking for a campaign, you get a lot of support, you get a lot of discounts, you get a lot of in-kind [contributions]," Barry said.

Barry said she bought 30 gift cards out of her own pocket.

The voter turnout operation was centered on the early-polling site at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, a city-owned facility in which Barry's nonprofit group -- the Recreation Wish List Committee -- runs programs. Barry clashed with Fenty last summer after his administration ordered the nonprofit to vacate the facility after a paperwork oversight. Barry fought the eviction in court and won.

The cards, Barry said Sunday night, were not meant as an incentive to vote for any particular candidate. "These people wanted to vote; they needed transportation," she said. "When you're in a community that is so much in need, you try to do something to help people. It's not a lot."

A source not affiliated with either the Fenty or Gray campaigns took a flier (pictured above) from a person present at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center on Saturday. "GET ON THE BUS," reads the flier. "EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE -- FREE GIFT CARD." The front includes an image of a Visa card; the back lists eight pick-up locations.

On the previous Saturday, Sept. 5, a Post reporter saw Barry stationed outside the Tennis and Learning Center. "This time last year I was in a battle to be here," she said, referring to the eviction battle. "I just want peace." That day the Ward 8 Voter Assurance Unity Campaign held an event near the voting site, at Mississippi Avenue and Wheeler Road SE, featuring hot dogs and Italian ice for voters, plus a moonbounce ride for kids.

Barry said Sunday night that she saw no difference between handing out hot dogs and handing out gift cards.

"What's the difference? You're just feeding people, that's all," she said. "We didn't have time to have a big cookout again, so you give them something to go get their own food."

Under federal law, anyone convicted of paying or accepting payment for registering to vote or voting can be fined as much as $10,000, or imprisoned for as long as five years.

The Board of Elections and Ethics has gathered information on the matter and has passed it to federal authorities.

Barry said she's "not sure" whether the Ward 8 Voter Assurance Unity Campaign will be turning out voters in a similar manner on Tuesday's election day.

"I'm so tired," she said.

UPDATE, 7:45 A.M.: The Fenty campaign says it's "well known" that Barry is a "strong Gray supporter," noting that Gray attended Barry's 65th birthday party in May.

"Getting out the vote with grocery money represents the worst in old-school politics," said spokesman Sean Madigan. "It is clear to anyone watching the footage or who was there that this was a Gray-driven operation, no matter how they try to spin the story. ... This leaves only two choices: either Gray is condoning a vote-buying operation or he is surrounding himself by people who do. Both show a lack of integrity and leadership."

By Mike DeBonis  |  September 12, 2010; 10:15 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Mayor Fenty , Mike DeBonis , Vincent C. Gray  
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Next: Fenty hits campaign trail in final push

Comments

THIS IS RIDICULOUS! Buying votes. Hellllooooo, is anyone out there at the US Attorneys office?

I saw the news interview about some SE kid who said he was offered money in exchange for voting for Fenty. He had no credibility whatsoever. THIS, however is solid proof of vote buying.

Vote Gray, and WE WILL GO BACK TO THE BARRY DAYS. PLEASE FOR THE SAKE OF GOD AND FOR OUR CHILDREN, VOTE FENTY.

Posted by: DCMoney1 | September 13, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Bye King Fenty!

Posted by: drfields | September 13, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

@DCMoney1

I saw the news interview about some SE kid who said he was offered money in exchange for voting for Fenty. He had no credibility whatsoever. THIS, however is solid proof of vote buying.

Get your facts straight, the SE kid actually lives in NW and attended Dunbar HS. People who know the young man will tell you that he is a very honest person who was duped by Fenty supporters.

Yes, it may be wrong voting in exchange for a job but it is also wrong to make statements that are false to support your crooked candidate.

You jackaxses who keep harping on the Barry connection are desperate idiots.

GO GRAY. BYE FENTY AND YOUR DESPERATE SUPPORTERS. JUST LIKE THE SKINS, GRAY WILL PULL OUT THE WIN AND THIS WILL BE DC'S SUPER BOWL.

Posted by: guylady201001 | September 13, 2010 6:48 AM | Report abuse

This is vote buying clearly impling they vote for Gray, or they would not have called it the Gray Van. Shame on Cora Barry she wants the Barry machine back in power with Gray. Big step backwards for this city. Gray keeps telling these people he can get them jobs and unless it is in the DC Gov. he cannot offer them jobs. Gray is running a superficial empty campaign and some are buying into it.

Posted by: voter20 | September 13, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

@voter20 Unless, of course, the van happens to be a very common vehicle color--grey.

Posted by: AndrewinNW | September 13, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

"they would not have called it the Gray Van. "

And just who is "they" - some nameless, faceless off-camera voice.

Besides they didn't call it that. A woman's voice said "Is that the Gray van?" and a man's voice said "yes."

Who were these people? No one knows yet.

Posted by: efavorite | September 13, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse


@voter20,

You seem to have a comprehension problem. Vincent Gray has included jobs creation as part of his overall platform. Please explain your interpretation as "Gray keeps telling these people he can get them jobs[...]"

Please stop with the Barry-baiting and fear-mongering. It is Fenty who is running the superficial campaign on "results" which are questionable at best -- nonexistent at worst.

Oh yes, his results include a totally messed up DMV, one of the city services he "streamlined" after Anthony Williams had fixed it.

Posted by: sheridaw | September 13, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

On election day let's hope everything runs true to form. I don't put nothing pass the Fenty campaign. Desperate people, do desperate things, not because they are so concerned about the city,or losing their jobs, they haven't finished robbing us and filling their pockets!!!

Posted by: WhisperingWind1 | September 13, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Not sure why people focus on the van when the lady giving out the cards said she was working nonpartisian and did not tell anyone to vote for Gray.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | September 13, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

D.C. has an historically low voter turnout that is approximately 30%. So, how is this any different from any other organized concerted effort to galvanize people to "get out and vote", whether or not the draw is food or entertainment(i.e. go-go event)? Unlike Rudolf Williams' televised phone call to Fenty campaign headquarters in which the staffperson unwittingly seemed to substantiate the "vote for pay" scheme, where is the proof that this was the same?

I dislike Fenty and I'm unimpressed with Gray, but all roads to corruption do not lead to Marion Barry. This election has become a 5-alarm smoldering hot mess.

Posted by: logosdesigns | September 13, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, it is not a new phenomenon for politicians to have to "entice" voters to the polls in certain areas of the city. Though I think it is pathetic, it is a reality in this town. Voting is far too often not seen as a citizen doing their duty, but, rather, a bargaining chip to get something of value in exchange for casting a vote.

Ask yourself, why do you have to have go-go concerts, provide free food, or chauffeur a citizen to get them to vote; irrespective of the candidate. The same citizens that scream and complain the loudest tend to be the very one's that never vote.

It is a ludicrous practice that continues in the District, but one that both camps, or those affiliated with them, have come to understand just the reality of the day.

I cannot and will not justify this because there is no justification. Pandering for votes is just a bad practice. In my opinion.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 13, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Boy am I glad I'm not stuck voting in DC.

Posted by: futbolclif | September 13, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Here's more proof that Gray = return to "Barry-time".
If Gray wins, you'd better hope it doesn't snow around here for the next 4 years since 1 inch will shut the city down until it melts. The only thing that gives hope is that Marion and sometimes ex-wife Cora are getting long in the tooth and may just not be factors in 4 more years.

Posted by: blankspace | September 13, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

This is odd. I was at the Giant on Saturday and walked right past the people handing out cards. Until now, I never heard anyone make their connection to the Gray campaign.

Posted by: dcis1 | September 13, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Geez, didn't think to consult an attorney I guess. How can people be so dumb? Or do they just not care the least bit about ethics or the law?

Posted by: pswift00 | September 13, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

What is this really about? People crying about $10 gift cards especially with this economy come on people its really not that serious. And another thing that was the worst video I have ever seen. How does anyone know what was really going on it? Fenty cronies at work not doing their best.

Cora was totally smart enough not to associate her gift giving with anyone. It's nothing but the Fenty Crew feeling a litle insecure about their status in the Mayoral Race.

Looking at it like this if Fenty would have took the time he promised and should have taken with the black and poor Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 he wouldn't be at stroke level. He brung this on himself plain and simple.

I will be so glad when this mess is finally over.

Posted by: msruby36 | September 13, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Cory Barry has hosted several fundraisers for Gray and if she didn't host them she was present at them.....

Is this what you think of people in your ward? Bribe them with food? How about using that money to provide them with job training classes..

They are really pimping the poor people. I hope you guys realize your time is more valuable than a grocery gift card..Let's see if a bus comes for your to take you to job training classes

Posted by: ncode | September 13, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, the Peaceoholics will be deployed to all polling stations in wards 7 & 8 to reminds voters that felons are not entitled to vote and to caution welfare mothers that the $10 gift cards received from Cora Masters Barry may be construed as a bribe.

Posted by: wagtdn | September 13, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

there will be a high turnout tomorrow. watch.

Posted by: PrimaDiva | September 13, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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