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Raid on political donor shakes D.C. government
Potential fallout could influence campaigns, recall effort
The full intent of a federal raid late Friday on an influential D.C. political donor’s home and offices remains unclear, but by Monday morning the potential fallout of the incident reverberated through city hall, the campaign trail and a long-shot effort to recall the city’s top elected officials.
Federal authorities did not accuse Jeffrey E. Thompson — the president of an accounting firm and owner of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, which holds a lucrative Medicaid managed-care contract with the city — of any crimes or wrongdoing during its “law enforcement activities” on Friday, nor did a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office elaborate on what they were looking for.
But D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat and reportedly the only city lawmaker with no ties to Mr. Thompson’s fundraising machine, said the issue at hand “goes straight to pay-to-play, and at least the perception to the public that it’s corporate influence that controls the council’s agenda.”
When the council passed a sweeping ethics reform bill last year, Mr. Wells pushed an amendment that would prohibit principal business owners from using subsidiary companies to inflate their total donations to a single candidate, a practice known as “bundling.” He did not succeed, and he said Monday he has “no confidence” the council will ban the practice in the near future.
Over the course of multiple campaigns, Mr. Thompson, his companies and his associates have donated $100,000 to both council member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, and former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty; $90,000 to sitting Mayor Vincent C. Gray; and $33,000 to council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, according to a June report in the Washington City Paper. The report also noted that Mr. Wells appears to be the only council member who has not accepted funds related to Mr. Thompson.
“Yes, that is accurate, that I know of,” Mr. Wells said Monday. “There are a lot of ancillary businesses that I may not know are related to him.”
Mr. Gray’s spokesman declined to comment on speculation that the search of Mr. Thompson’s materials could be tied to the federal investigation into the mayor’s 2010 campaign, particularly the way in which it raised its funds.
“All we know is what we are reading in the media,” spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said.
Mr. Brown also declined to comment on the raid. He acknowledged that Mr. Thompson has donated to his three campaigns but claimed Mr. Thompson only offered support when he was on his way to clear victory.
“Everybody supports you once you win,” he quipped.
Democratic challengers to Mr. Orange's council seat seized on Friday’s raid and its implications ahead of the April 3 primary election.
Sekou Biddle, who was appointed in January 2011 as an interim at-large council member before losing the seat to Mr. Orange last April, sent a message to his supporters that highlights the reported $100,000 in campaign contributions that tie Mr. Orange to Mr. Thompson.
“Unlike Vincent Orange, I do not rely on corporate and special interest money to fund my campaign,” Mr. Biddle said. “My campaign is funded by regular D.C. residents who are fed up and know we can do better than the corrupt council we have.”
Mr. Orange said all of his opponents have accepted corporate donations and should focus on their individual records.
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About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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