Around New Year’s, Thompson commissioned a local pollster to survey city residents on the low-profile race, according to sources familiar with the poll. It found that former Ward 5 member Vincent B. Orange, who had recently lost a bid among Democratic Party activists to hold the seat on an interim basis, had a 20-point lead over the interim appointee, Sekou Biddle.
In January, Biddle amassed a string of key endorsements, including those of Gray and Brown, and held several well-attended fundraisers. That led many political observers to write off Orange.
But late in the month, Orange leaked the poll results to show potential funders he remained a viable candidate, and in the next six weeks he raised $191,000, far outstripping Biddle, a source involved in Orange’s fundraising said. The source said that about half of that haul was raised from people with ties to Thompson, including numerous TCBA and Chartered employees.
The poll and the funding helped turn Orange into an instant front-runner — he went on to win the April 26 special election, beating Biddle, Republican Patrick Mara and six others.
Orange declined to comment. “I’m not talking about Jeff Thompson,” he said.
Thompson raised considerable sums for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), and officials who worked in Fenty’s administration say Thompson was not shy about calling about business grievances, moving up the chain of command when he did not get an answer he liked. Calls would also come in from his allies on the D.C. Council and elsewhere.
In the late months of the Fenty administration, Nickles said Thompson asked the city to pay Chartered $14.9 million over a billing dispute over dental care.
The Fenty administration did not honor Chartered’s requests, arguing that thereimbursements had been figured into the rates it had previously agreed to. In September, Chartered filed a complaint with the city’s Contract Appeals Board; a month later, the city filed a motion to dismiss. The board has not yet ruled on the case.
Early in Gray’s mayoralty, Thompson paid a visit to Wayne M. Turnage, the city’s new health- care finance director. He wanted to discuss the dental dispute.
In late June, Turnage told The Post that he agreed to settle the dispute for $10.2 million after city consultants found “exposure.” Part of the settlement was included in a $32 million increase for the city’s managed-care providers.
The additional funding was controversial, with Catania and others objecting to the last-second change to the city budget. But the D.C. Council voted to make the additional money a top priority on a 7 to 6 vote. Orange spoke in favor: “I’m going to speak up for people who need publicly financed health-care programs,” he said on the council dais.
Sharon Baskerville, executive director of the D.C. Primary Care Association, which advocates for more accessible and higher-quality health care, said Thompson profited during a period when the city was not holding its contractors to high standards of accountability.
“When you have a city agency that has not historically been on top of their game in managing their contractors, they’ve definitely found ways to kick the ball in their favor,” she said.
This month, Catania scheduled a hearing on the settlement, specifically requesting Thompson’s presence. Two days later, Turnage told the council that the settlement was under review. The hearing was canceled.