Gray aide meets with Lewinsky crisis consultant

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

His boss under siege as a federal investigation racked up guilty pleas, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's top aide met last month with a prominent communications consultant who assisted Monica Lewinsky during the firestorm surrounding her relationship with President Clinton.

Judy Smith, a former federal prosecutor who evolved into a high-profile communications consultant, met with Christopher Murphy, Gray's chief of staff, on July 11 after an initial introduction in mid-June. The Associated Press first reported the contacts, though the Gray administration later provided copies of emails between the two to The Washington Examiner.

Smith's breakfast meeting with Murphy at the Old Ebbitt Grill came one day after Jeanne Clarke Harris, a one-time strategist for the Gray campaign, pleaded guilty to charges linked to an illegal shadow campaign that helped elect Gray.

The emails show that the session had been arranged weeks in advance of the charges against Harris, which prosecutors disclosed on July 9, but after two other Gray aides had pleaded guilty to federal charges.

In a written statement, Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said Monday that Smith's links to Murphy and other Gray aides were limited.

"Ms. Smith has no role in the administration, paid or otherwise," said Ribeiro, who added that Murphy "takes hundreds of meetings in any given month."

Murphy made arrangements to meet with Smith after Barbara Lang, president of the DC Chamber of Commerce, introduced them by email on June 15, four days after Lang and Smith discussed the mayor.

In her email to Smith, Lang said that Murphy was "very willing to talk to get your thoughts/ideas." SClBSmith is not a newcomer to major scandals. In addition to Lewinsky, her previous clients include former Sen. Larry Craig, the Idaho Republican who endured public ridicule after an arrest for lewd conduct in a Minnesota airport, and the family of murdered intern Chandra Levy.

Gray has faced repeated questions about the illegal activities his associates have acknowledged took place in support of his 2010 campaign, though he has largely remained quiet about what transpired. He has cited the advice of his attorney in declining to answer questions.

But his silence has taken a toll on the public's perception of his 19-month tenure. A poll released last month found that his approval rating had slid to 29 percent, the lowest of any D.C. mayor in decades.

Although three members of the D.C. Council have demanded his resignation -- and 54 percent of poll respondents said he should quit -- Gray has vowed to finish his term, which expires in January 2015. He has not said whether he will seek re-election.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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