Fenty campaign challenges independent Gray fundraising
UPDATED 8:25 P.M.
Last week, I wrote about "Friends of Vince Gray for Mayor" -- the independent fundraising committee that, according to founder Clinton LeSueur, stands to significantly aid Gray's effort to unseat Mayor Adrian Fenty (D).
Yesterday, the Fenty campaign put LeSueur & Co. on notice.
Bill Lightfoot -- the attorney, former council member and Fenty campaign chairman -- asked the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to investigate "Friends of Vince Gray" for possible fundraising violations.
In an eight-page complaint (pdf), Lightfoot cites a litany of potential and apparent missteps -- starting with LeSueuer's well-established connections to the actual Gray for Mayor campaign. The complaint lists a number of Facebook postings in which LeSueur describes his volunteer door-knocking for the Gray campaign, plus his attendance at Gray's April 21 kick-off fundraiser.
According to city law, independent fundraising is independent only if it is done "without cooperation or consultation" with any candidate or his official committee. City regulations also state that truly independent groups cannot spend "[b]ased on information about the candidate's plans, projects, or needs provided to the expending person by the candidate."
Lightfoot argues that LeSueur would have had plenty of opportunity to glean Gray's "plans, projects, and needs." Because he was an active canvasser, Lightfoot writes, "he likely learned from campaign staffers and from the campaign's database the specific neighborhoods that the campaign considers to be its high-priority targets, both for voter contact activity and sign placement."
Furthermore, Lightfoot appears to have the "Friends" committee dead to rights on the illegality of its name. The name of an independent committee, according to city regs (pdf), may "not include the name of any candidate for elective office in the District of Columbia." And Lightfoot notes apparent violations of several other fundraising laws. He notes that two weeks after it first sent a fundraising letter, "Friends" hadn't registered as a campaign committee -- even though city law says committees are required to register within 10 days of organization.
LeSueur was not immediately available for comment. The Gray (D) campaign has disavowed any coordination with his efforts.
In an interview today, Lightfoot said he and the Fenty camp just want "everyone to follow the law." He said he does not personally know LeSueur, who worked on Fenty's 2006 campaign.
"We're all talking about integrity and promoting integrity," he said in a not-so-subtle nod to Gray's campaign motto. "That means we all have to comply with the law."
UPDATE, 8:25 P.M.: LeSueur says he's been in "constant communication" with campaign finance officials to make sure he's in compliance. "We want to be sure that we're in full compliance with the rule of law," he says. "We don't take this matter lightly. We take it very seriously, in fact."
As for the status of his fundraising, LeSueur would not venture a number: "It's going pretty good. I just want to leave it at that for now."
Assuming OCF doesn't put the kibosh on the group, it will be required to file disclosure paper on Aug. 10.
July 29, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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