Fenty campaign: Gray supporters lure voters with gift cards
UPDATED 9/13, 11:55 A.M.
On the last day of early voting in District neighborhoods, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign accused supporters of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray of attempting to lure voters to a polling site with supermarket gift cards.
Last night, a Fenty supporter uploaded a video to YouTube that shows an unidentified woman with a camera talking to another woman in a parking lot about how to obtain the Giant gift card.
In the shaky video, one woman tells the woman with the hidden camera she has to "get on the van" if she wants a $10 gift card.
"We are going to buy you lunch," the one woman says. "If you get in our van, and go vote, if you get back on, I will be right here."
The woman asking about the gift card then asks, "Who do I got to vote for, Gray?"
"No, we are non-partisan, you can vote for whoever ... you can vote for yourself," the other states.
Later, the woman with the camera asks a man, "Is that the Gray van?" "Yes, ma'am," she's told.
A Board of Elections and Ethics official said Saturday night the board is aware of the allegation and is forwarding information to the U.S. attorney's office. Under federal law, someone 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. But elected officials have said it's longstanding practice for campaigns to provide some voters with free meals to encourage turnout.
Since midweek, Fenty has been battling allegations that a supporter offered young adults $100-a-day jobs to vote for the mayor. Gray has called for a federal investigation into the allegations, first reported by WJLA-TV Channel 7.
In the video, there is no documentation that any gift cards were ever exchanged and no footage of a van. The video, uploaded by Fenty campaign adviser Ronald Moten, ends with the woman with the camera getting climbing back into a car stating, "We got 'em."
Mo Elleithee, a senior strategist for the Gray campaign, said the video "speaks for itself."
"I think Ronald Moten and the Fenty campaign are showing how desperate they are at this point," Elleithee said. "Perhaps, if they put half as much effort into finding who in their organization has been buying votes, as they are into manufacturing videos about others, then maybe, maybe they would have a little bit of credibility and integrity left."
The Fenty campaign deferred comment to a campaign lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.
In a second video three men -- shot from the back as they ride in a vehicle -- are heard discussing a $10 gift card after they vote. One of the men asks whether he can get the card before voting, but he's denied.
One of the men, presumably the driver, explains that "you vote whoever you like to vote for" and explains that they are not trying to pay people to vote.
On the ride to the purported polling place the men discuss the controversial recreation contracts awarded to firms connected to friends of the mayor and the need for jobs in the area. Although they mentioned both Gray and Fenty by name, it's unclear whether representatives of either campaign is in the vehicle.
The image is lost as the men get out the vehicle, but the sound continues, capturing two men talking to a woman who explains what her group does.
"We're just a team that just goes out anybody who wants to vote we don't tell them who to vote for or anything like that," she said. "We just get them rides to get them to the polls and take them back. That's all it is."
"How long does it take to go here and vote?" one of the men is heard asking.
The woman responds, "I don't know, because I don't vote."
UPDATE, 9/13, 11:55 A.M.: The Fenty supporters removed their original video from YouTube and have posted an edited version, which has been embedded above. The longer video has also been edited down and annotated and posted to YouTube.
-- Tim Craig, Mike DeBonis
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