Brown’s plea not only laid bare a $55,000 bribery scheme; it also detailed a connection to the alleged financier of a secret, $653,000 effort to back the mayoral campaign of Vincent C. Gray (D) in 2010. Brown said that he accepted an illegal donation from the same contributor, giving investigators new ammunition in a case that has dogged Gray since he took office.
People close to the case also confirmed for the first time that authorities are talking to at least one other D.C. Council member over campaign finance issues. Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) on Tuesday acknowledged that he had recently met with federal prosecutors about his past campaigns, which had ties to the same people implicated in the Gray “shadow campaign” — expenditures on behalf of the candidate that went unreported to campaign finance authorities.
Orange said he is cooperating and has provided documents requested by the prosecutors, but he declined to discuss details from the meetings, citing prosecutors’ request for discretion.
“Certainly the U.S. attorney is doing their due diligence,” he said.
The common thread between Brown, Gray and Orange are businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson and public relations consultant Jeanne Clarke Harris. Plea deals signed by Brown and Harris describe a tag-team effort by Thompson and Harris to subvert city campaign finance laws, which limit donations from individuals and businesses.
Prosecutors have not accused Gray of having direct knowledge of the illegal scheme. And although people close to the case describe Thompson as a prominent target in the investigation, he has not been charged. Thompson, once the owner of accounting and health-care firms that did billions of dollars in business with the city, is the subject of a grand-jury investigation, according to a recently unsealed court document.
According to plea agreements signed by Harris and Brown, Thompson provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret funds that were funneled through companies owned by Harris to benefit candidates Thompson did not want to support publicly. Thompson has not been identified in those documents, but several people close to the investigation said he is the person referred to as “Co-conspirator.”
Harris admitted to her role in July.
Neither Orange nor his campaign aides have been named in court pleadings. He is connected to Thompson and Harris most directly through the financing of his 2011 campaign, which returned him to the D.C. Council after a hiatus of more than four years. During that campaign, Orange accepted 30 money orders and three cashier’s checks, worth a combined $26,000, from contributors tied to Thompson or Harris. As much as $75,000 more from sources connected to Thompson came in the form of conventional checks.