Declaration signed by Peggy Cooper Cafritz sheds new light on shadow campaign

FOX 5 exclusively obtained a legal document that was handed over to prosecutors weeks before the federal investigation into former DC Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign ended.

The document was signed by well-known DC resident Peggy Cooper Cafritz who recently passed away.
The declaration outlines a lunch that Cafritz said she had with Jeffrey Thompson, who has been referred to as the leader of the shadow campaign.

In the past, Thompson has indicated that Gray knew about the illegal campaign, but at this lunch, Cafritz told a different story.

Gray's attorney Robert Bennett sent a signed document from Cafritz to the U.S. attorney, but never released it to the public because that's what Cafritz requested. Bennett now only talking about it after her passing.

"She said he could not have been clearer that the mayor did not know," Bennett told FOX 5.

The sworn declaration was dated on Nov. 20, 2015, just weeks before the case ended.

Bennett asked Cafritz to sign the statement after he learned about a lunch she had with Thompson at a DC restaurant in late 2013 or early 2014.

In the document, Cafritz said she had been approached by Gray to work on his 2014 reelection campaign and went on to say "I did not want to accept Mayor Gray's offer to serve on the finance committee for his 2014 re-election campaign if he or his campaign had been involved in any questionable conduct during the 2010 election."

At that lunch, Cafritz said she asked Thompson directly.

"She asked Thompson point blank if the mayor knew about the shadow campaign and she said he categorically said the mayor did not," Bennett said.

The question remains about whether the document helped end the investigation into Gray.

"I don't know. You'd have to ask them, but if they were on the fence when they got this, a person as credible as Peggy Cafritz, she was a very important person in the District and known for her integrity and candor, I think it had to have an impact," Bennett said.

Several weeks after the affidavit was signed and presented to prosecutors, Channing Phillips, the U.S. attorney at the time, ended the probe. FOX 5 reached out to Phillips but he was unable to comment about the case.

Bennett said he wanted to make the information from Cafritz public immediately, but she wouldn't allow it.

"I did try to convince her to let me make it public but she was adamant. You have to respect people's wishes. I was happy to get it and have her give me permission to give it to the prosecutors, but, I have to be honest, it was frustrating that I couldn't get it out," Bennett told FOX 5.

Thompson and others were found guilty for playing a part in the illegal campaign. Gray has always said he did not know about the shadow campaign. We reached out to Gray for comment and he referred questions to his attorney.

Gray recently said he was thinking about running against Mayor Muriel Bowser again, but his window to enter the race is beginning to run short.