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Guest Column: The Post Is Slyly Boosting Corrupt Jack Evans -- Again

Guest Column

By Pete Tucker, DC Journalist

Jack Evans, the most corrupt councilmember to ever grace the halls of the John A. Wilson Building, is still under federal investigation and faces the possibility of criminal charges at some point. Yet DC’s paper of record is aiding his bid for the Ward 2 seat he vacated in disgrace only four months ago.

The Washington Post isn’t openly endorsing Evans this time around, as it has for almost three decades. But the influential paper is helping Evans’s candidacy in less obvious ways.

For example, the Post endorsed Brooke Pinto, a 27-year-old from Greenwich, Conn., who’s never voted in DC and is unlikely to win. The Post’s endorsement is likely to fracture the anti-Evans vote, thereby keeping alive Evans’ chance of reclaiming his seat by winning a plurality of votes in the crowded June 2 Democratic primary (which essentially determines the general election winner).

It’s almost touching, the way the Post is standing by its man. The smart play for the Post – which exists to ensure progressives don’t win – was to back “Jack 2.0.” That’d be 28-year-old Patrick Kennedy, who was Evans’s 2016 campaign co-chair and is now supported by some of the same corporate interests Evans long serviced before he became toxic.

With the Post’s support, which is crucial in wealthy Ward 2, “Jack 2.0” would be close to unstoppable. Yet surprisingly, rather than prioritize corporate interests as it usually does, the Post is sticking with Evans as much as it can.

Evans is deserving of the Post’s affection. As chair of the powerful finance committee for two decades, he freed up ungodly amounts of tax dollars for projects like stadiums and luxury hotels that accelerated the displacement DC’s African Americans, long a Post priority. Now, in Evans’ hour of need, the Post is returning the favor.

In addition to endorsing Pinto, the Post is aiding Evans in other ways, too. For example, the paper hasn’t highlighted the fact that, if elected, Evans may be unable serve out his term, because he could be indicted for the very corruption that forced him to resign just months ago.

The Post is doing Evans another favor by framing the race as one in which the responsible thing to do, in light of coronavirus’s impact on the city budget, is cut services (because taxes on the wealthy must never be raised). Such cuts are Evans’ forte.

“I took a lot of hits, a lot of criticism by a lot of people over the years for being too conservative on the money,” Evans told the Post, portraying himself as brave for pushing cuts to social services instead of raising taxes on DC’s rich, who pay less in local taxes than those earning a fraction of their income.

In that same May 23 Post story – which ran on the Sunday Metro front page, as early voting was underway – Evans was given space to say, “There was nobody who made money off a decision I made,” a claim belied by many of the Post's own news stories and those of Jeffrey Anderson in District Dig.

The month prior, Post columnist Colby King called Evans a “promising” candidate and lamented that, due to Evans’s resignation, he was “[m]issing in action” at a time when his budgetary expertise could aid the city.

With little else to hang his hat on, Evans unsurprisingly latched on to the lifeline the Post threw him. At an April 22 online debate hosted by the ACLU’s DC chapter, Evans said in his closing pitch, “The Washington Post last Saturday said it bluntly, ‘Jack Evans remains the District’s most knowledgeable and experienced lawmaker on... city finances.’”

In its April 30 endorsing editorial, the Post again emphasized the need for budget cuts and decried “candidates promising the sky under the banner of progressive justice.” City Paper called this “a passive aggressive swipe” aimed at Jordan Grossman, who the Post attacked but didn’t name.

“THAT’S ON PURPOSE!” DC Councilmember (and former Post reporter) Elissa Silverman said on Twitter. “They don’t want to raise [Grossman’s] name ID.” Silverman is backing Grossman, as are unions and progressive groups – all the folks the Post can’t stand.

If Evans is returned to office, he’ll have the Post to thank, for sticking with him despite his extraordinary corruption.