Five things to know about the Jeffrey Thompson charges


Jeffrey Thompson was charged Monday after a three-year investigation. (Washington Post illustration)

Updated 3/17 to correct dates of Robinson and Smith’s council runs

1. Jeffrey Thompson is alleged to have pumped roughly $2.8 million in illegal cash into local and federal campaigns from 2006 to 2012. The charging document filed ahead of Thompson’s expected guilty plea Monday gives the most complete dollar accounting thus far offered by prosecutors of his alleged illicit campaign spending. Thompson funneled roughly $2 million into local campaigns for mayor and D.C. Council, plus another $800,000 to federal candidates for president, Senate and House of Representatives, through both “straw donations” made in the names of other people and through unreported “shadow” spending directly on campaign expenses. He faces two felony conspiracy charges, one for violations of local campaign finance law, the other for violations of federal law.

2. No new details on Vincent Gray. The charging papers lay out Thompson’s efforts on behalf of an unnamed 2010 mayoral campaign, which people familiar with investigation say is Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s. But the papers do not contain new details about Gray’s potential knowledge of or participation in those efforts. Prosecutors say Thompson’s spending on Gray’s 2010 run is slightly larger than previously reported: $668,000 rather than the $635,000 revealed in 2012, when Thompson associate Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty.

3. Many other candidates benefited from Thompson’s largesse. The charging papers say Thompson supported at least 13 federal candidates using straw donations, and echo earlier allegations that he funding a $600,000 shadow effort on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. His efforts on behalf of D.C. political candidates were allegedly even more vast, making straw donations totaling $500,000 to at least 15 candidates and shadow expenditures totaling nearly $1.5 million to eight candidates. The Washington Post previously reported that Thompson has made unreported expenditures on behalf of seven campaigns besides Gray’s: Linda W. Cropp’s 2006 mayoral campaign; Michael A. Brown’s 2007 and 2008 council campaigns for Ward 4 and at-large seats, respectively; Patrick D. Mara and Mark H. Long’s 2008 campaigns for an at-large council seat; Jeff Smith’s 2010 run for the Ward 1 council seat; Kelvin Robinson’s 2010 run for the Ward 6 council seat; and Vincent Orange’s 2011 run for an at-large council seat.

4. The impact on the mayoral race remains uncertain. With few details at this point about what the candidates Thompson supported knew about his dealings, it’s hard to say how Thompson’s plea will affect the mayoral race. But it certainly will have some effect. With three weeks until the Democratic primary, the new developments put new attention on a controversy that has placed Gray and Orange in an unflattering light. They might hold out hope, however, that Thompson’s plea will allow them clear their names.

5. More details are coming. This afternoon, Thompson will appear in federal court to enter his plea. As part of that process he will provide details on the illegal acts he is pleading to in a formal “statement of offense.” That could provide new insight as to whether or not the candidates he supported had knowledge of or participated in his illicit schemes. One tantalizing detail from the charging papers is that Thompson and his co-conspirators, as a matter of practice, acted “in coordination with” the candidates they supported.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · March 10