D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange tried to distance himself from the investigations into District political campaigns by declaring in a televised interview Tuesday he has been cleared of any wrongdoing during his 2011 campaign.
Appearing on Newstalk with Bruce DePuyt, Orange said over the weekend he received a preliminary copy of an Office of Campaign Finance audit in his campaign. Orange said the preliminary audit, which he is refusing to release publicly, concludes his expenditures and receipts are balanced, except for $22.91.
“There are no outstanding issues as far as I am concerned,” Orange said. “The case is closed…and I’m moving on.”
Orange appears to be referring to the standard audit that the OCF routinely conducts following a campaign to make sure a candidate properly accounts for all donations and expenses.
But Orange has also been battered by questions about $26,000 in contributions from entities and individuals with apparent ties to city contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson and his former spokeswoman, Jeanne Clarke Harris, both at the center of the criminal probe of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign.
With Orange unwilling to turn over the preliminary audit he referenced on television, it’s unclear whether OCF has also examined the Thompson-related donations. But Wesley Williams, an OCF spokesman, disputed Orange’s claims that the case is now closed.
“Those are the councilman’s words, those are not the words of the Office of Campaign Finance,” Williams said. “The audit is not complete.”
Orange collected contributions in a series of $1,000 and $500 money orders and cashiers checks within three days of each other shortly before his 2011 election. Many contained similar handwriting and originated from several companies controlled by Thompson and from donors from both the District and other states, including California and Georgia. Reviews of the documents show four batches of money orders were purchased from Western Union on March 10 and contain sequential order numbers.
Though they come from different donors, the handwriting on several of the money orders appears similar.
The Washington City Paper reported last year that Orange has collected more than $100,000 from Thompson over the past decade. A Washington Post review found that about half of the donations Orange raised in 2011 came from Thompson or a Thompson-related company.
Orange, however, appears to be trying to build a case that whatever wrongdoing is uncovered related to Thompson was out of his control as the candidate.
Orange told DePuyt that he properly recorded each donation and submitted the necessary information on his campaign finance report. He also noted that The Washington Post reported in March that several donors who used money orders say they legitimately contributed to his campaign to support him.
“That is where my responsibility ends,” Orange said. “We recorded properly, turned it in properly and kept telling everyone we did that. Now, after the fourth examination, I’ve been given the clearance.”
During his 2011 campaign, veteran political consultant Vernon Hawkins was a major supporter of Orange’s effort. According to Gray campaign workers, Hawkins is also at the center of the allegations that Thompson funded a $653,000 “shadow campaign” for the mayor in 2010.
But under questioning from DePuyt, Orange pushed back against any suggestions his campaign funding has any similarities to the problems the U.S. Attorney’s Office unearthed in the Gray effort.
“Anything is possible, but once again, the records of Mr. Orange, the receipts and expenditures, they add up,” said Orange, who told DePuyt his campaign was run by aides who had no connection to Gray’s 2010 effort.