Editorial: D.C. needs to publish its audit on Mayor Gray’s campaign

A bill to be proud of

WELL OVER a year ago, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance completed an examination of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign. It focused on possible violations of campaign finance rules. But the report has yet to be published. The reasons are hard to fathom and raise troubling questions about how seriously this office takes its duty to police the city’s politics.

This is an inquiry separate and apart from the much-publicized criminal investigation of the 2010 Gray campaign by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is ongoing. When we asked why the city audit had not yet been released, a spokesman for the office provided this mystifying response:

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“The final audit report was completed in draft on May 15, 2012; however, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, additional information may be necessary.”

It may be understandable that campaign finance officials would want to do additional work in light of federal prosecutors’ July 2012 revelation of an illegal “shadow campaign” that operated on Mr. Gray’s behalf in tandem with his official campaign. But when we pressed for clarification, it became clear that federal prosecutors have not asked — nor can they direct — city officials to withhold the report.

The campaign finance office, an arm of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, launched its inquiry on March 15, 2011, shortly after Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate in the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary, publicly alleged that the Gray campaign paid him in cash and promised him a city job in exchange for his attacks on former mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Mr. Gray’s main rival. Sources describe its conclusions as scathing.

According to accounts by various news organizations, the campaign may have violated rules in converting cash contributions above the legal limit to money orders, improperly paying poll workers and using a city database of public housing residents for get-out-the-vote efforts. Significant fines could be assessed against the campaign committee, though if that committee has no money — as has happened before — the deterrence effect would be limited. Neither the candidate nor his campaign officials would be liable.

Still, voters should know what the office found; if it found no wrongdoing, Mr. Gray deserves to have that made known. Four years have passed since the campaign. What incentive does any candidate have to follow the rules if the watchdog charged with enforcement can slumber for so long? The campaign finance office should release its findings before another election has come and gone.

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