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. Over nearly 30 years, he has used his skills, charm and persistence to build a small accounting firm into a business empire — in large part through government contracts. He has also constructed a political network nurtured by substantial campaign contributions.
His accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, remains a major District government contractor; it did $3.4 million in city business in 2010, according to city records. Thompson is also sole owner of Chartered Health Plan, which holds the city’s largest contract, worth as much as $322 million yearly.
Thompson’s companies have largely avoided public scrutiny, even as the city filed a civil suit in court claiming that Chartered bilked the city out of millions, according to court records. The matter was settled in 2008, with Chartered agreeing to a $12 million settlement with the city. This summer, questions about Chartered have re-emerged, after Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) asked the D.C. Council to approve a $32 million payment to city Medicaid providers that would have primarily benefited Chartered.
Thompson has remained silent. Through attorney Frederick D. Cooke Jr., Thompson declined to speak with The Washington Post about his business and political activities. Several of his personal and political associates also declined to discuss Thompson, citing his desire for privacy.
Barbara Lang, a close friend and chief executive of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said that Thompson prefers to remain “behind the scenes” in business and politics. “He does not like that kind of attention.”
Thompson is “the consummate Washington guy,” says former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). “I say this as a compliment: He knows how to get things done.”
It’s a hard-earned role for the 56-year-old Jamaican immigrant, the youngest of 11 children. He earned an accounting degree in 1976 from what is now the University of the District of Columbia, magna cum laude, working as a bookkeeper for the National Rifle Association to finance his studies. Before he was 30, he founded his namesake firm.
Today, TCBA is routinely mentioned as one of the nation’s largest minority-owned accounting firms. It has done extensive work for federal agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Among its private-sector clients has been the NAACP, conducting financial audits and tabulating the results of its annual Image Awards.