Tracy: Did the Pitch sell out? Planned Expose of Political Hit Man Pat Gray Turns Puff Piece

In honor of election day today, let’s take a look at one of the town’s most feared, reviled and exhalted political operatives

And the hit piece alternative weekly the Pitch promised but failed to deliver on.

Naturally I’m talking about Pat Gray  – who I’ll wager prior to the Pitch story coming out – was shaking in his lizard Tony Lama cowboy boots there in his Leawood hacienda. But the supposed expose of arguably the biggest political rascal here since Tom Pendergast–turned out to be a fluff piece. A snoozer.

Too bad.

Turns out I was practically the only one willing to go on the record, exposing Gray as the conniving, devious campaign manager I believe him to be.  Everyone else (you know who you are) stayed off the record.

Which pretty much says it all. There are reasons, I believe, that KCMO and Jackson County voters have not elected the best and the brightest in recent years.  In my 1976 Doubleday book – “Right Here in River City,”  co-authored with Walt Bodine – I called Kansas City the “home of niceness,” full of people too nice, too polite to admit awkward truths. Fearing not just retribution, but social disapproval.

Pitch writer Nadia Pflaum tried to lower the boom on Gray. I really believe she did. Pflaum told me she set out to pen an expose of Pat Gray and that it was slated to run much closer to the E-tax election in April. Not on January 25th.

So for whatever reasons, the Pitch let this smoking gun go off way too early to remotely affect that election. 

Was the Pitch bought off somehow? Scared off?  Who knows?  Let’s just wait and see how many ads they end up getting.

To paraphrase what was once said during Watergate, what did Nadia know and when did she publish?

Gray won a lucrative advertising and campaign management and polling account to promote the bloated 1% Earnings tax–(40% of KCMO’s budget).  The weaker, nicer competiton didn’t have Gray’s swagger.  Even when he limps, from crashing into a brick wall years ago, Gray likes to strut and mock his opposition.  So the City Fathers bent over one more time and are paying Gray to make sure KCMO voters don’t overturn the 1% earnings tax, on the April ballot. 

And unless the opposition ponies up – soon and big time – Gray will likely win the election–without any organized campaign. 

And just where is Rex Sinquefield, the ultra-rich investment dude from St. Louis, when we need him?  It was Sinquefield who single-handledly teed up the ball for KCMO voters to finally get to DECIDE if they want this 1% Earnings Tax. But to date, there IS no opposition campaign for this critical vote.  Is Rex sitting this one out?  Or does he only care about St. Louis and not Kansas City?

So Gray wins by default as Pflaum’s expose never jelled.  How could it?  She never even scored a photo of Gray – let alone an interview.

Though he DID issue a two word email denial of stealing $1,200 in Super Bowl tickets from my ad agency when he worked for me in the 70’s. That’s funny–he admitted it to ME at the time.  As I fired him, he just shrugged and laughed and said, "Sorry, Toots."

Here’s what I told Pflaum, but she was too scared to print:

That Gray kept a campaign car for three long months after we lost a Clay County Jail Bond issue and then crashed the car. And so as his boss, I then had to pay the campaign in-kind donor, Bill Woods Ford, $1,000.00 to repair the car.

In my opinion, Gray doesn’t appear to know right from wrong.  So when he was pre-planning his bankruptcy, he bragged about taking my secretary to a lavish dinner on the rooftop of the Alameda Plaza…every night for 30 days!

 Life is a game to Gray and money is his compass.

Gray has started to lose some big races, including Bi-State II, the 20 year, $1.4 billion stadium and arts crowd debacle in 2004. 

Gray’s been a consistent flop in Johnson County.  Eight years ago, he charged Sam Brownback’s rich cousin, conservative Kansas state rep Charlotte O’Hara, a small fortune to come in second for Chairman of the Johnson County Commission. Queen Annabeth Surbaugh won easily, spending a fraction of the money.

To Pflaum’s credit, she DID dance around the edges of Gray’s propensity to work both sides of a race– allegedly taking money from competitors. When that kind of  corruption happens at a racetrack or in a major sporting event, there’s a name for that.

Ask Alvin Brooks why he lost to goofball KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser four years ago. If 400 or-so people had changed their vote, KCMO would not have blown hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawsuits caused by Funk’s wife, Gloria.

So scared were the new editors of the Pitch, they warned Pflaum not to write that Gray was a registered Republican in Leawood, without confirmation from him.  For heaven’s sake.  It’s public record.

So I guess we’ll find out April 5th how good a job Gray does after getting the establishment to pay him beaucoup bucks to fight nobody. Oh yeah, and how many ad dollars the incredibly shrinking Pitch manages to cull out of the campaign.

The above political commentary and satire represents the opinion of Tracy Thomas

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4 Responses to Tracy: Did the Pitch sell out? Planned Expose of Political Hit Man Pat Gray Turns Puff Piece

  1. chuck says:

    Nice hit piece.
    I like it.

    The Pitch did sell out for money.

    Everybody has to make a living. Perhaps they can absond with some measure of journalistic integrity. “Hey, Tracy, here are my notes and sources if you quit crucifying me. Go get ’em.”

  2. Ross says:

    Sour Grapes
    I know this particular website is into bad writing and personal attacks, but you just seem bitter. A professional political operative can’t work for both parties? And the fact you can’t seem to manage whatever happened at “your agency” in the 1970’s hardly seems relevent today.

    If you want to rip the Pitch for backing off – that’s fine. But that doesn’t seem to be what this is about. I just don’t see anything in your reports about Gray that any of us should care about. Is he running for office?

  3. Ross says:

    Sour Grapes
    I know this particular website is into bad writing and personal attacks, but you just seem bitter. A professional political operative can’t work for both parties? And the fact you can’t seem to manage whatever happened at “your agency” in the 1970’s hardly seems relevent today.

    If you want to rip the Pitch for backing off – that’s fine. But that doesn’t seem to be what this is about. I just don’t see anything in your reports about Gray that any of us should care about. Is he running for office?

  4. Tracy Thomas says:

    Gray’s sleaziness is KC Power Elite’s achilles heel
    First, Ross, it’s not that Pat Gray works for opposing parties, of course that is OK. What he does is work for opposing candidates, in the very same race!!! Secretly taking cash from one without revealing his enormous CONFLICT OF INTEREST. That is completely sleazy. He throws the race for the lesser candidate. If this were baseball or basketball, that would be illegal.

    Second, I “managed” what Pat did to me and my agency just fine back in the 70’s. I didn’t sue, I just fired him. And then recently, went on to beat him handily, even tho he outspent me 112 to 1, as with BiState II.

    And I didn’t walk around talking about Pat all the time. But in January, I was asked, by the Pitch, to tell the stories, and then they chickened out and didn’t print them. In my opinion, they were intimidated and or greedy, and instead changed a promised expose’ into a puff piece. Then Hearne asked me to tell the stories, and I shared one or two and he has now printed them. Not the really juicy ones, and largely without the voluminous documentation that I have, but, he asked, and I told.

    Ross, your final question is quite good and deserves to be answered. The reason the business community should care is: they keep hiring Gray, even tho they suspect he lacks integrity, even tho they know he is ripping them off for huge sums of money including his polling– because they are afraid NOT to. They are getting ripped off, and the city then continues to make crazy decisions, like the Power and Light District. Some of the gentlemen who fund all these campaigns for Pat Gray would secretly like to pull the plug. But they are afraid. He’s kind of the Roy Cohn of our age–a bully. So the city finds itself involved in Joe McCarthy scare tactics. The Power Elite would like to put that behind us, but unless they have some evidence, or confirmation of a lack of professional ethics, then they get outvoted by the secret committees of white-haired Chamber members who write the checks to buy what they want.

    The real question is: will KC continue to be run based on fear?

    And that is a pretty important subject, do you agree? Thanks for writing.
    Tracy

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