This is a story that begins with a man named “Uncle Earl.”
Uncle Earl’s real name is Jeffrey Thompson. He’s a District of Columbia businessman who pleaded guilty this past week to funneling more than $2 million in illegal campaign contributions to a variety of candidates during a six-year period.
That total included about $660,000 that flowed into the 2010 D.C. mayor’s race, money that mostly went toward get-out-the-vote operations for Vincent Gray in his primary battle against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Gray and Thompson agree that Thompson took on the nom de guerre Uncle Earl in his dealings with the mayoral candidate. Gray says it was to keep the businessman’s identity hidden from Fenty, with whom Thompson was also working. Thompson alleges that Uncle Earl was part of an elaborate plan he hatched with Gray to stealthily influence the primary.
“Lies,” Gray told reporters of Thompson’s charge that he knew of the illegal donations. “These are lies.”
No matter where you come down on this fight, for Gray, it’s hard to imagine worse timing for this news to break. He faces a Democratic primary vote on April 1, and these allegations make the race that much harder.
Even if Gray survives the primary, he will have to face David Catania, a member of the D.C. Council, who announced two days after Thompson’s plea that he would run for mayor as an independent.
Vince Gray, for thinking a nickname would keep things quiet, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Chris Cillizza covers the White House for The Washington Post and writes The Fix, its politics blog.