Independent fundraising could aid Vince Gray's campaign effort
Mayoral candidate Vincent Gray is thus far facing an almost 10-to-one fundraising disadvantage compared with incumbent Adrian Fenty. But some Gray supporters have drummed up a way to help bridge that gap by taking a page from the big-time federal election sphere: an independent political committee.
Gray ally Clinton LeSueur has sent out letters to area business leaders asking for contributions to "Friends of Vince Gray For Mayor" -- billed as "an independent committee raising money to help elect" Gray.
Like federally registered political parties, political action committees and "527" groups, Friends of Vince Gray for Mayor would be prohibited from coordinating its fundraising or spending in any manner with the authorized campaign. But with that stricture comes great benefits under D.C. election law.
Check out D.C. Code § 1-1131.01(f): "Any expenditure made by any person advocating the election or defeat or any candidate for office which is not made at the request or suggestion of the candidate, any agent of the candidate, or any political committee authorized by the candidate to make expenditures or receive contributions for the candidate is not considered a contribution to or an expenditure by or on behalf of the candidate for the purposes of the limitations specified in this subchapter."
In other words, the independent spending is not subject to the standard contribution limits -- $2,000 per person or corporation in mayoral races.
Wesley Williams, an official with the city campaign finance office, confirms that the group's organizers had sought information from his office, but he says that they have not formally registered the committee. They would not be required to register until the next committee reporting deadline, which is Aug. 10.
LeSueur says Friends of Vince is "another tier, another layer" in the effort to elect his candidate. "Basically it's just another campaign," he said Tuesday. "This is just kind of a net to spread it wide. Anyone can be a part of it."
He also says he has the "wherewithal" and "experience" to give Gray an edge in the fundraising battle. "This is what I do," he said -- and it's what he did for Fenty, whose 2006 campaign he worked for before breaking with him over an alleged nonpayment of wages.
Traci Hughes, spokeswoman for the official Gray campaign, says that LeSueur's effort is in no way affiliated with the campaign in terms of using any of the campaign disclaimers. "Anything he does is of his own volition," Hughes said Wednesday.
LeSueur would not share his fundraising goals, but he said the committee hopes to raise "a substantial amount" -- including from donors who have maxed out with the Gray campaign. It might be spent, he says, on yard signs, paid staffers and perhaps even advertisements.
The solicitation letter -- which was mainly sent to area business leaders listed in public directories, LeSueur says -- is much less slick than official Gray campaign letterhead, but there is some resemblance: the fonts and colors are similar.
But LeSueur says he is fully aware that his efforts must remain completely separate from Gray's.
"We have absolutely nothing to hide," LeSueur says. "We want to make sure we do everything in our power to get Vince Gray elected mayor."
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