The Real Election Scandal in Washington, D.C.

The lack of full voting rights in the District of Columbia is one of the most egregious, ongoing human right violations in America.

Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray is pictured at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.

The lack of full voting rights in the District of Columbia is one of the most egregious, ongoing human right violations in America. It's worse because it's largely ignored or accepted by much of the American public, who seem to think that this place is just one big office building for politicians and lobbyists. The fact that people actually live here, pay (high) taxes here, and work here, even in industries having nothing to do with government, has done little to shake the long-outdated status of the District as a place of government activity alone.

So why are we also saddled with the worst poster children in the world for the campaign to give D.C. full voting rights?

Yet another scandal is playing out in D.C., where a public relations consultant and donor to Mayor Vincent Gray has been charged with conducting a sweeping scheme to avert campaign finance laws. Prosecutors charge that the donor, Jeanne Clark Harris, collected the maximum of $2,000 in donations from family members, gave the cash to the Gray campaign, and then reimbursed the straw "donors," getting around campaign finance limits. She is also accused of taking "steps to impede federal officials" in their probe. Gray is not identified as knowing of the scheme, although he benefited from it.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

The charges come as part of a broader investigation into Gray's campaign for mayor. Two campaign aides have already pleaded guilty to charges that they convinced Sulaimon Brown, a long-shot mayoral candidate, to attack incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty. Fenty lost to Gray in the Democratic primary.

True, the charges aren't as reality TV salacious as those levied against former mayor (and current D.C. councilman) Marion Barry, who was caught on tape smoking crack in a local hotel room. D.C. voters were rightly appalled, but there was also a sense then that the feds were singling out D.C. officials for investigation and prosecution, if not persecution. It's one of the reasons Barry was able to make a political comeback: There is strong resentment of the idea that D.C. is like some child-state that needs to be disciplined and guided by the federal government and a Congress made up of people who openly express hostility for the nation's capital.

But it would help if our current city leaders didn't play into their hands.

  • Read Robert Schlesinger: Washington, D.C., Deserves Vote in Congress Now
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