Top Gray campaign aide charged in federal probe

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A top official of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign was charged Monday with making illegal campaign contributions and destroying evidence, making him the first person to be charged in connection with a lengthy federal probe that has distracted the Wilson Building for months.

Thomas Gore, 56, who served as the assistant treasurer of Gray's successful run for the city's top job, was charged in a criminal information. He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Tuesday morning and is expected to plead guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors.Frederick Cooke, Gore's attorney, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said the charges, one of which is a federal felony, carry up to 21 1/2 years in prison, though Gore is likely to receive a much lighter sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities.

In a four-page filing, prosecutors outlined their case against Gore, who managed finances for two other Gray campaigns before the mayoral race.

Who is Thomas Gore?
The first person to face criminal charges in a months-long investigation of Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign is a longtime friend of the mayor and a D.C native. Gore, an Anacostia resident, has been president and executive director of Associates for Renewal in Education, a nonprofit organization, since 2002.

The events leading to the most serious count -- an obstruction of justice charge tied to the destruction of evidence -- took place in March 2011, prosecutors said.

At that time, about two months after Gray took office, "Gore did knowingly destroy ... a spiral notebook containing a record of payments to Candidate B" by the Gray campaign, prosecutors wrote.

"Candidate B" is Sulaimon Brown, a failed mayoral candidate who prompted the probe into the Gray campaign after he said that he received cash and a promise of a government job in exchange for criticizing Adrian Fenty, the incumbent mayor and Gray's archrival in the Democratic primary.

Brown could not be reached for comment.

The remaining three counts against Gore -- making a contribution in the name of another person -- are also connected to Brown.

In their filing, prosecutors wrote that Gore, using money orders, transferred $535 from the Gray campaign treasury to Brown's campaign.

Gore, one former Gray aide said, was far from a bit player in the campaign.

"Every campaign has a person who is in charge of tracking income, the person you go to to actually cut checks," said the campaign strategist, who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign's internal workings. "It's an important role. ... That was his role."

Robert Bennett, Gray's attorney, declined to comment, citing the pending investigation.

Chuck Thies, a political consultant who has informally advised Gray in the past, predicted the charges against Gore wouldn't hamper the mayor.

"Because Gray is now battle-worn -- it has been more than a year since Sulaimon Brown entered the lexicon -- this is just another tick of the clock," Thies said. "In terms of Gray's ability to govern, this is just a couple of bad news cycles."

Gray's campaign hasn't been the only recent ethical distraction for the District's government. Federal authorities are also probing the campaign of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and former Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. received a 38-month prison sentence earlier this month after pleading guilty to stealing more than $353,000 in public funds.

Examiner Staff Writer Liz Farmer contributed to this report.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

USA v. Gore

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