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Watchdog: Accountability

City probes misconduct alongside feds

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Corruption,Accountability

Federal authorities aren't the only people probing corruption in District politics: The city also is investigating the activities of several current or former officials.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has an open investigation into Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign, and the agency said recently that the release of its final report is "contingent upon coordination with another enforcement agency."

Agency officials have repeatedly declined to discuss a timeline for the release of the audit, an outgrowth of the investigation the office opened on March 15, 2011.

The District also is weighing whether to impose any penalties against former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's 2008 campaign, which prompted the federal investigation that drove Brown from office.

Although U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. has ended his probe, he has urged the DC Board of Elections to consider civil action.

"The closure of our criminal investigation should not be interpreted as a clean bill of health for the 2008 Kwame Brown campaign," Machen said. "The completion of our investigation paves the way for the D.C. Board of Elections to resume public proceedings on the civil complaint filed against the Kwame Brown campaign."

In a separate letter to the panel, Machen suggested the board "vigorously enforce provisions regarding cash donations, cash expenditures and their financial disclosure."

Also, the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has started a preliminary investigation of Ward 1 D.C. Councilman Jim Graham's actions as a member of Metro's board of directors.

In a formal response to the board, Graham's lawyer pushed for a dismissal of the probe and argued that "sharp-elbowed political behavior is not a violation of any District ethics provision." - Alan Blinder

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