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It’s time to call it ‘Graygate’

The Vincent Gray/Sulaimon Brown scandal continues to widen at a breathtaking pace. A little more than two months into his administration, Mayor Gray has had to hire attorney Robert S. Bennett, who represented President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, to deal with charges by Brown, a fringe mayoral candidate at best, that he, Brown, received payments from Lorraine Green, the campaign chief, and was promised a job to continue attacking then-Mayor Adrian Fenty on the campaign trail. Bennett’s hiring is just the tip of what appears to be a serious iceberg of troubles for Gray and for the District. For one thing, Gray is losing City Council support. The nomination of Green, perhaps Gray’s closest political confidant, as chairman of the Washington Convention and Sports has been sidelined by Councilmember Jack Evans, chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Federal investigators are apparently looking into the matter, including the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and staff of the House Oversight and Government Committee. While Brown continues to talk to all media, the spotlight has also turned on Howard Brooks, an elusive Gray campaign worker whom Brown alleges gave him money at Green’s behest. The Gray-Brooks connection extends to Brooks’ son who is now apparently resigning from his $110,000/year District government job. The decline in Gray’s position extends to the media. At his weekly press briefing on Wednesday, the new Mayor deflected all questions related to Brown allegations and the burgeoning investigations that Gray has said he welcomes. As bad as Gray’s problems are, we should not forget the simultaneous political shrinking of Chairman Kwame Brown. After being caught directing the District to lease two "fully-loaded" SUVs for his use, he is now driving an old mail truck. Thus, instead of leading the Council as a good-government alternative to our problem-plagued Mayor, he is forced to play defense. His too-little-too-late call for a probe by Inspector General Charles Willoughby of the Sulaimon Brown charges was declined by Willoughby because the IG had interviewed Sulaimon Brown about a job. Was no stone unturned for this little dictator? The cascade of questions continues: Did Gray promise Sulaimon Brown a job and did the Gray campaign pay Brown? Who is the mysterious Howard Brooks? What does it mean for Gray to hire a big-name lawyer (will Bennett be paid, doesn’t he have to be paid, how Gray raise the money)? Is it good to stonewall the media? (And, sigh...) What do we do with our wounded chairman? All of these developments bring back a Watergate frame-of-mind. While we don’t know how it will turn out and hope all charges can be explained, at the moment, there’s no escaping – it’s Graygate.