With major city contractor and campaign financier Jeffrey E. Thompson now under apparent federal investigation, it’s put local media in a tough spot. As DC Porcupine noted Monday, depicting this super-shy figure has been difficult. Thompson has been generally reticent to appear in the public eye, particularly news photos and video.
Note that last year, when a multi-million-dollar settlement between his Chartered Health Plan and the city became controversial, the threat that Thompson would be called to testify before a D.C. Council committee helped to delay a deal. And he’s now hired high-powered attorney Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly, who shares Thompson’s press-averse philosophy.
So no surprise, then, that I ran into difficulties last year illustrating a profile of Thompson. Through his lawyer, he declined an interview, let alone a photo shoot. But I did discover one high-quality video of Thompson, 57, available online. It’s of him speaking at the April 2010 funeral service for civil rights legend and Thompson friend Dorothy Height, captured by C-SPAN.
It became the basis for the lead of my story, in which he describes the key role he played in the deal allowing Height’s National Council of Negro Women to purchase prime real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue NW:
At a memorial service for Height last year, Thompson told the audience that he understood how important it was “to us as a people to have a home on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
It took him 15 minutes to raise the funding.
It was a rare moment for Thompson, to step before cameras and a public audience to speak of his considerable influence.
Watch the video, which gives you a taste of Thompson’s courtly but magnetic presence, as well as his penchant for operating behind the scenes: