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DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 10, 2010


Here you go, folks: An A1 story on Attorney General Peter Nickles and his sui generis relationship with Adrian Fenty, penned by Nikita Stewart and yours truly: "Nickles, 71, has become Fenty's protector and enforcer. No other official so enjoys the trust of the 39-year-old mayor, which, combined with the authority of his office, has made him the most powerful unelected official in District government, eclipsing Fenty's deputy mayors and city administrators. He has been called everything from Fenty's godfather to 'consigliere' to 'vice mayor,' a gibe that he is the Richard B. Cheney to Fenty's George W. Bush. His supporters say he has harnessed the bureaucracy to bring needed change to the city. Critics say he has interpreted laws and policies in Fenty's favor and mishandled some cases. Both question whether he has contributed to the mayor's poor approval rating. ... His tenure has been so controversial that the D.C. Council pushed a long-sought referendum for an elected attorney general onto November's general election ballot. ... 'He has become the de facto spokesman for the mayor, which some have viewed as politicizing the position,' said [David Catania]. 'Some have raised the concern that there's a conflict between what's in the mayor's interests and what's in the city's interest.' Says Nickles, 'I am completely apolitical.'"

AFTER THE JUMP -- Fenty camp denies vote-fraud allegations -- Kwame Brown targeted in OCF probe -- NYT looks at Fenty woes -- Martin O'Malley praises Fenty -- Fenty hires Anita Dunn


VOTE-BUYING CHARGES -- OK, so everyone (including me) has been calling this stuff "vote-buying," even though no one has come forward saying they actually got paid. But I'm not sure what to call it -- "vote-bribing"? TBD continued to be all over the story that corporate sibling WJLA-TV broke yesterday. Vincent Gray campaign officials yesterday called the allegations part of a "widespread practice" that "undermines the integrity of what the electoral process should be about." Here's what Adrian Fenty's camp had to say: "What's a widespread practice in this campaign is my opponent's desire to talk about anything else but his record or my record." TBD and Loose Lips post the Fenty campaign code of conduct that drivers were supposed to have reviewed and signed. I explained how Fenty 2010's big-spending ways have put them at risk for these sorts of allegations. TBD does a strangely exhaustive job of (not) figuring out whether it's actually illegal to sell your vote in a city election. Also AP, WBJ, Examiner, WTTG-TV.

NEW NUMBERS -- Bernard Demczuk's George Washington University "supermarket survey" is out: Among 675 registered Dems interviewed face to face by GW students, Gray leads Fenty 50.5 to 37.5 percent. Kwame Brown leads Vincent Orange, 50 to 33 percent. And Michael D. Brown and Phil Mendelson are virtually tied, at 37 percent, with Clark Ray taking 7 percent.

DUNN DEAL -- The Fenty campaign has hired former White House communications director Anita Dunn "to help him craft his message for the final push of his re-election campaign," Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire. "On Sept. 2, Fenty paid the firm $14,400 for "advertising," according to campaign finance reports. Sources who review media buys for [Gray]'s campaign said Fenty will greatly expand his television advertising this weekend. Although it's unusual for a campaign to make a major personnel hire a few days before an election, Fenty aides downplayed the move, noting Dunn had been providing informal advice to the mayor for several weeks." Also Loose Lips.

NATIONAL PRESS ROUNDUP -- The New York Times takes a second whack at telling the nation that Adrian Fenty is in trouble: "By any measure, [Fenty] has suffered an astonishing reversal of political fortune," Erik Eckholm writes. "In the 2006 campaign for mayor, Mr. Fenty tirelessly knocked on doors and created a sense of excitement and, at the age of 35, he won every precinct. ... Yet now, just days before Tuesday's primary, which will effectively pick the next mayor in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, Mr. Fenty is the underdog -- even he admits it -- and deeply unpopular with the black middle class that helped to elect him. Just how far he trails at this point is unclear ... but Mr. Fenty knows he is scrambling for survival." Quoted: Yvette Alexander, the Post's editorial board, folks outside a Safeway. More national press: "Showdown In The City: Incumbent D.C. Mayor Fenty On The Ropes," writes Talking Point Memo. CBS News did a Web interview with Hizzoner, titled "Will D.C.'s Fenty Be One-Term Mayor?" And does a capsule preview of the race, and manages to get three things wrong in less than 100 words.

O'MALLEY ON FENTY -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley offers this non-endorsement endorsement for Fenty under Mark Segraves' questioning on WTOP: "I've enjoyed working with Adrian Fenty. I found him to be a very effective and capable executive. Some of the things we've done on information sharing in public safety have never, ever happened before. I think his administration deserves a lot of credit for the record reductions in homicides that have been happening in Washington and I would look forward to working with him for another four years."

CLOSER LOOK -- The Office of Campaign Finance has opened a formal investigation into irregularities in Kwame Brown's 2004 and 2008 campaign accounts, Ann Marimow reports at D.C. Wire. "Last week, [opponent Vincent Orange] staged a news conference outside the Office of Campaign Finance to highlight what he said were inaccuracies and irregularities in Brown's reporting for two previous elections. ... [I]n a letter to Brown on Thursday, the director of the office said, 'in view of the gravity of the allegations and additional issues that have arisen from our preliminary review, OCF has determined that a full investigation into this matter is warranted.'" Brown's campaign attempted to brush it off as a "routine response to a request for an investigation" and vowed to cooperate.

MONEY DON'T MATTER -- The Examiner editorial board picks Kwame Brown for chairman: "Brown is not a perfect candidate for council chairman, as seen in his opposition to vouchers. His past campaigns are under investigation by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, and he acknowledges that being sued by three credit card companies displays an embarrassing lack of fiscal discipline. But he's promised to post the city's checkbook online, so voters will be able to see where their money is being spent. Brown's personal failings are offset by his ability to bring diverse groups of the city together. ... But it is Brown's insistence that the D.C. government start demanding basic accountability for the $6 billion it spends every year that has earned him The Examiner's endorsement."

FENTY (R)? -- The not-a-column, in which I explore the possibility that the general electorate might be friendlier to Fenty than the primary electorate, and his options for exploiting that. He's pretty much missed the boat on running as an independent. "A more intriguing possibility: The D.C. Republican Committee has not fielded a mayoral candidate this year, opting to focus its energies on ward council races. Republicans will be faced with a blank ballot, and at least some are going to write in the mayor they've come to know and perhaps like: Fenty. There has been some talk of the possibility in GOP circles, and 'it seems like that's going to happen,' says Patrick D. Mara, the 35-year-old Republican who made a game run at the at-large council seat in 2008. 'And really that's about Chancellor [Michelle A. Rhee] and Chief [Cathy L. Lanier] more than anything.' It is possible, even likely, that Fenty would win the most Republican write-in votes, leaving him eligible to accept the GOP nomination. Could he accept? Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the Board of Elections and Ethics, believes he could, with the caveat that the issue has not been deeply researched. Would he accept? Fenty said on Thursday that he would not. But on Sept. 15 he might have a different perspective."

NAME YOUR PRICE -- Clark Ray unloads to DCist on the Michael Brown affair: "It's almost like poetic justice, for someone who is on the outside looking in. Phil Mendelson did not campaign aggressively. He relied on his name, on an incumbent's name of 12 years. Then all of a sudden, he got matched with a name that carries a little more weight than his. Michael A. Brown has invested more money over a short political career -- running for mayor twice, running for Council at-large - and now, all of a sudden, Michael D. Brown, who hasn't campaigned at all, is ahead of Phil Mendelson. It's a name game, which is sad, in a sense, that we may elect our leaders based on a name. ... People say, 'Why aren't you angry, why aren't you bitter?' ... Part of me is so perplexed that there is this outpouring of sympathy for Phil Mendelson, who, by and large, if he had campaigned, door to door, wouldn't be in this situation." Unions and Carol Schwartz, meanwhile, are assisting with the Brown confusion.


Remember that alleged "teacher who had sex with students" Rhee mentioned a few months back? He is the defendant in a federal lawsuit. (Post, Examiner, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV)

Post editorial board doubts Gray's ed-reform-with-a-smile will work: "It's not easy to close schools, replace principals or fire longtime teachers, and for all Mr. Fenty's faults as a manager, it's hard to see how he could have made any of those decisions without making enemies." (Post editorial)

Gay activists continue move to Gray; "Adrian is very bright and energetic and he's well meaning. ... But one of the things that Vince has that Adrian lacks is the maturity and the wisdom to understand that you have to be genuinely concerned about the people that you're elected to represent" (Blade)

Gray campaign has tenuous connections to '80s "drug kingpin." Or not. (WaTimes)

Ethiopians are coming out for Gray (Housing Complex)

Fellow Gray vanquishees Kevin Chavous and Kathy Patterson talk "state of the city" on Fox 5 (WTTG-TV)

Fenty called City Paper to say thanks for the endorsement (Loose Lips)

The Peter Rosenstein ticket: Gray, Kwame and Ray (Blade)

More edu-reform hyperbole, from Dems for Education Reform: "[N]othing short of the future of D.C.'s public school system -- a major step forward or setback for reforming America's education system -- is staked on the outcome of the election." (HuffPo)

Bruce Johnson sits down with Vince Gray and kids Jonice and Carlos. Highlight: "He is a brilliant man, and he is a scholar and an athlete," Carlos says. (WUSA-TV)

Patrick Madden on Gray's "delicate dance" with Marion Barry (WAMU-FM)

An edu-wonk's smart take on Fenty: "Residents aren't just going to praise the mayor for fixing schools -- especially if they are failing in other areas. This means mayors must be at skilled at managing government and keeping their supporters behind them." (Dropout Nation)

WHC/UMC OB partnership is official (WBJ)

Fenty v. Gray, on leadership style (WBJ)

Five underappreciated crosstabs from the City Paper/WAMU poll (DCist)

David Alpert goes to bat for Gray on his parking stance (GGW)

A history of student democracy in West Georgetown (G'town Voice)

"Residents of the Allen House Senior Apartments in Northeast Washington boarded buses and vans on Thursday to cast their ballots for Mayoral candidate Vincent Gray. ... An Allen House spokesperson told us that Mayor Adrian Fenty sent a bus a couple of days earlier to take the seniors to the polls but there were no takers." (Informer)

Court hearing today could move WTU elections forward (WAMU-FM)

D.C. United lured one Virginia native to the District; he's voting Fenty (City Desk)

Aaron Morrissey has some issues with the "Phil Mendelson has some issues" mailer (DCist)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty and Gray debate at 10 a.m. on Mark Plotkin's Politics Program on WTOP, do it again at noon at Tony & Joe's with Carol Joynt -- Ward 5 council candidates face off on WAMU-FM's Politics Hour -- surrogates Ron Moten (Fenty) and Mo Elleithee (Gray) face off on TBD's NewsTalk, 10 a.m.

By Mike DeBonis  |  September 10, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Carol Schwartz speaks: Vote for Phil Mendelson
Next: D.C. Jail inmates cast their primary ballots


Mike, congratulations for real on front page story. Very heavily edited, unfortunately, but several glimpses survived of your & Nikita's psychological insights into Adrian's childhood bond with his sugar-uncle.

However, I see far too little reporting on the methods Nickles used to usurp the previous Attorney General. You cannot simply rest on non-comment from prior AG, who is under ethical obligation not to speak about client confidences & secrets. You could have interviewed a lot more people outside the AG's office than you did; you could have interviewed the Bar Counsel of the D.C. Bar about the attorney-client relationship for attorneys employed by government agencies.

Nickles doesn't have an ethical bone in his body, which is how he bullies everyone, including courts and litigation adversaries. He defines the uncivil SOB litigator which young lawyers are warned not to deal with or emulate. It is simply unprofessional to behave the way Nickles behaves. Unprofessional=unethical under modern rules of professional conduct. Nobody has the balls to call him on it.

I was hoping you would have done more on the angle of Nickles's unethical conduct. If Fenty survives and Nickles remains in office, WaPo has duty to expose Nickles for what he really is. In the real world, any attorney who negotiated a friendly settlement with alleged grafters and frauds to subvert judicial and legislative oversight would be treated as a co-defendant and suspended from representing his client (the executive branch of the city) during the pendency of an investigation of his co-defendants. The fact that he continues to represent the executive branch (Mayor & city agencies) despite his gross conflict of interest is itself evidence that he is unprofessional & unethical. He has abdicated his duties as an officer of the court and has identified himself entirely with the "client." He has become the problem client, rather than the representative of that client. He has an ethical duty to resign now. He is the poster boy for crony capitalism in our small business community.

Posted by: Rambler3 | September 10, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

i see that through Phil mendelson's smear campaign he has been able to catch up with Michael Brown in the polls! I find it uncanny that it is okay for a white guy to use race as an equalizer and encourager his supporters not to vote for white Mike simply because he is white! Is this 1963 or 2010? How would anyone fell if you were asked to not vote for black Mike? It would be considered raciist! Before Phil was elected he was an ANC commissioner and? Michael Brown was an ANC commissioner,president of the western ave residents assoc, worked for the DNC and owned his own business that worked on media with democrat causes. How can any of you say he is not qualified to be a councilman in our city? Shame on you and shame on Phil for his racism!

Posted by: Samorpye | September 10, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

@ Samorpye:

wrong. One white guy telling voters not to vote for the other white guy is not racism and not a "smear campaign." Get real. Also, one white guy telling voters the other white guy is a white guy, not the black guy they think he is? Also NOT racism. And NOT a "smear campaign."

It is unlikely that Phil had to "catch up" to Michael "D" since the WaPo poll of 8/19-26 published 8/31 showed they were separated by only two (2) points more than the margin of error, while the new GWU poll apparently shows a dead heat. Better blogging would have included the margins of error for the new GWU poll and the margins of error for the cross-tabs (sub-categories) for the 8/31 WaPo poll.

Could we please see the raw data for the GWU poll?


Posted by: Rambler3 | September 10, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

disregard extra "Also,"

Posted by: Rambler3 | September 10, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

dcist commenter jamie noticed an even better cross-tab:

"25% of people who rode their bike to work in the last 30 days are currently unemployed."

Sounds like bike-riding can be dangerous to your job security.

Posted by: Rambler3 | September 10, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Even better comment yesterday over at dcist from David S. about the cool cross-tabs:

"I really felt like this poll was incomplete. Next time, Washington City Paper and Kojo Nnamdi Show, pray tell us: Do people who think Marion Barry should be in jail actually like the Cowboys more or less than people who think Vince Gray should spend the rest of his life in a streetcar eating spaghetti? That's what I really need to know. Oh, and please, whatever your results, don't ever run a t-test."

Here's Link:

Posted by: Rambler3 | September 10, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Mike Debonis,

I too thought as you do that AMF would run under another ticket but.....

Do some many voters would he lose if he went Republican?

And is cash on hand no longer is a significant leap forward to what Gray has. And for AMF I think that is what he is looking at. He has blown throw money and will have to make massive layoff to continue to fight Gray. He won't have the developers who will say it is a fools errand and unions will really try to bite down.

Mentally note request check back from O'Malley.

Posted by: CultureClub | September 13, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Sorry its late.

I meant to say. His "cash on hand" money he has left is no longer substantially greater than Grays. That is a game changer for Fenty, who has wasted tons of money thus far.

To not have a money advantage when the other guy has momentum and the Dems name is a killer.

Posted by: CultureClub | September 13, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

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