Campus Notebook: Darrell Issa’s Probe of Vincent Gray Irks Some D.C. Forces

Posted October 31, 2011 at 6:42pm

Rep. Darrell Issa says he has no plans to continue his investigation into D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign conduct after releasing a report Monday.

But proponents of “home rule” and greater autonomy for the District of Columbia are criticizing the California Republican for having launched the probe in the first place.

As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over D.C. affairs, Issa called for an investigation in March into allegations that Gray, during his campaign to unseat then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, offered fellow candidate Sulaimon Brown a quid pro quo to stay in the three-way primary.

Brown has said that Gray’s campaign asked him to remain in the race despite knowing that he would lose in order to disparage Fenty. The trade-off would be money and a job in the Gray administration.

Brown did assume the post of a special assistant in the Department of Health Care Finance a month after Gray took office earlier this year, but he was fired in a matter of weeks after revelations of a prior criminal record. It was at this point that Brown began to accuse Gray of foul play.

Issa’s 50-page report essentially clears Gray of bribery allegations, stating that there was not sufficient evidence to corroborate that claim. Still, the report backed Brown’s statements that his mayoral campaign received financial backing from Gray’s campaign consultant, Howard Brooks.

A spokesman for Issa, Frederick Hill, said the report was intended to present the public with the facts, not suggest innocence or guilt.

In a statement, Issa added that while the U.S. attorney’s office will continue to investigate the matter, his committee “has no current plans for additional investigative steps or to hold congressional hearings related to these allegations.”

The conclusion of the committee’s work on this case did not make the investigation feel like any less of an insult, however, to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). She said Monday that the report was a needless and offensive interference into D.C.’s local affairs.

“I think the report only goes to show how redundant the investigation is, and unnecessary,” she said. “It essentially warms over what the D.C. City Council found out long ago after weeks of public testimony.”

In addition to the ongoing probe by the U.S. attorney, Issa’s investigation also coincided with inquiries conducted by the D.C. Council. A committee led by Councilmember Mary Cheh released a report in August concluding that there was  “strong evidence” to suggest that Brown received funds and the promise of an administration job.

James Jones, communications director for the statehood advocacy group DC Vote, echoed Norton’s sentiments.

“The committee appears to be repeating what our own local people have done, and came to similar conclusions,” Jones said. “I think we’ve demonstrated that we can police our own affairs and conduct our own investigations into what’s happening in our backyard.”

DC Vote and Norton will continue to press Issa and committee Republicans to cede more local control to D.C. residents on Thursday when the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to consider legislation mandating new hiring practices in the District. Cheh has introduced similar legislation in the D.C. Council.

Please send Campus Notebook tips here.