Michael John Gray Responds (Sorta) With Misleading Email

Plus, a look at missing campaign-finance reports and troubling entries in the reports he did file.

Yesterday, about four hours after the previous post went live, DPA Chairman Michael John Gray sent an email to various people associated with the Democratic Party of Arkansas. A number of folks forwarded the email within minutes of his having sent it, and it’s worth reprinting here in its entirety for context for what comes next:

From: Michael John Gray [email protected]
Date: August 6, 2019 at 12:07:04 PM CDT
To: Michael John Gray [email protected]
Subject: Regarding the post this morning >>>

Dear Elected Officials, Executive Committee, State Committee, and Party Leaders,

You may have seen a post from an online blog about the inner-workings of our organization. The report makes note of alleged discrepancies and clerical errors in our financial reports, many of which we have already discussed with you at our April meeting in Little Rock.

I do want to be clear: the article makes no allegation of misappropriation of funding or disbursements.

Additionally, all the information is currently being reviewed by the DPA legal counsel. We take all allegations seriously and are committed to determining and presenting all facts.

I also want you all to be aware of a Special Meeting of the State Committee and Executive Committee, that I as Chair will call in the coming days. My intention is for this meeting to be informational and to take place before the Clinton Dinner and Summer Gathering. More information about that will be released soon.

As always, I appreciate your commitment to the Democratic Party of Arkansas, and I look forward to meeting with you soon.

MJG

As crisis-response statements go, this one is not good.1 At first, I was going to dissect it line by line, like we’ve previously done with really stupid statements by embattled politicians. But I realized that the only reason I wanted to fisk it in that manner was to make fun of the phrasing “online blog.”2

Rather than belabor the point that way, it makes more sense to parse one particular phrase in his statement: I do want to be clear: the article makes no allegation of misappropriation of funding or disbursements

I want to be clear as well: that is completely false.

Yesterday’s article, which Gray was careful not to reference by name or link to in any fashion, specifically laid out that Chief of Staff Karyn Bradford-Coleman received four separate raises, none of which had been approved by the DPA Executive Committee. Paying someone money to which she is not entitled is, by definition, a misappropriation of funds. As a law-school graduate, one would assume that Gray would understand this fact; hell, if he doesn’t understand that is misappropriation to pay money that has not been authorized for payment, that is a huge problem (that might also explain some of the other problems).

As long as we’re talking about Gray and money issues, however, there is something else worth calling attention to. Namely, that Michael John Gray did not file his 10-day pre-election or final Campaign Contribution & Expenditure report for the 2018 general election.

By failing to file those reports, Gray has made it impossible to review the last month-plus of fundraising and expenditures from his campaign. He has also, of course, violated Ark. Code Ann. 7-6-207, which requires those reports to be filed “no later than seven days prior to any…general election” and “within thirty (30) days after the end of the month…in which the general election is held,” respectively.

The 2018 campaign was not Gray’s first rodeo. He previously ran in 2016 as well. And he clearly knew that reports were required, as he filed all of his reports (some with several amendments) for the 2018 campaign except for the last two. I mention that only to note that knowingly violating that statute is a class A misdemeanor, so one hopes that these failures to file were simply an oversight that has gone uncorrected for nearly 10 months.

Yet…if we look at some of the reports Gray did file, we see this in the August 2018 report:

That is three payments of $5000 each of campaign funds to FJW Consulting on August 14, 2018, followed by a refund of $5000 from FJW to the campaign on August 17. At that point, the campaign was out $10,000 for $10,000 that was due to FJW, and the extra $5,000 in campaign funds that had been sent to FJW had been returned to the campaign’s coffers.

Inexplicably, on August 29, Gray paid himself that $5,000 that had been returned to the campaign by FJW Consulting. There is no record in that report of Gray first loaning that $5,000 to the campaign to pay to FJW. There is no record of a $5,000 loan from Gray to the campaign anywhere, in fact, except for an amended June report, which he also filed on August 29, where there is suddenly a loan amount on the first page that has increased by $5,000, even though that report and none of the prior reports actually show such a loan.

What’s more, the following month, when he filed his September report, the loan balance on that report didn’t reflect that the $5,000 he paid to himself from FJW had been deducted. So it is not even accurate to call that self-payment a loan repayment anyway. On the face of the available CC&Es, at least, that $5,000 is just a payment from Michael John Gray’s campaign, to Michael John Gray, of campaign money that had been returned by FJW.

And just so there is no further confusion, yes, this is an additional allegation of misappropriation of funds under Gray’s control.

UPDATE: Gray sent an additional email yesterday and, if brevity is the soul of wit, this thing is hilarious.

Hi all, 

Thank you all for the feedback that you provided to myself and our team yesterday. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, please note that I will soon. 

Again, I am including yesterday’s email to ensure you all have the information you need as valuable members of our party. 

– MJG

In this email, he again did not specify the blog where the issues originated, nor did he link to the post. Meaning he has now sent two emails to party committee members in which he vaguely referenced some allegations in an “online blog,” but failed to actually point those members to the source so that they could read it for themselves if they had not already.

Yet, in a use of irony that would make O. Henry blush, he states that he is “ensur[ing] you all have the information you need.” You know…despite not providing any of the information they need. That’s some Trumpian sleight of hand right there.


  1. Or, as one veteran politico proclaimed to me via text, “This is the worst crisis communication response I’ve literally ever seen.”

  2. What…as opposed to free-range blogs that one encounters outside of the internet?