Raid on Donor Shakes City Hall; Potential Political Fallout Could Influence Campaigns, Recall Effort

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

Raid on Donor Shakes City Hall; Potential Political Fallout Could Influence Campaigns, Recall Effort


Byline: Tom Howell Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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 offered support only 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.

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Raid on Donor Shakes City Hall; Potential Political Fallout Could Influence Campaigns, Recall Effort
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