Combined, the raids and subpoenas cast attention on Thompson’s donor network and his role in funding local political campaigns, and indicate that an ongoing federal probe sparked by the allegations of a minor mayoral candidate has unfolded into a broader inquiry of campaign finance in the city.
In particular, the recent use of money-order donations by Thompson-connected individuals and firms — including to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, D.C. Council members Michael A. Brown and Vincent B. Orange, and former member Harry Thomas Jr. — has raised questions about whether contribution limits were circumvented through “straw donations,” or giving money to others who in turn donate the cash under their own names.
Thompson’s attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., declined to comment, citing a policy of not addressing ongoing investigations. A partner with Thompson’s accounting firm — Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates — has said that the agency is cooperating with the investigation and that there has been “no accusation of wrongdoing.”
Craig Engle, a lawyer specializing in election and campaign finance law, said that if a donor were interested in a straw-giving scheme, “I think money orders would be an easy way to do it.”
The Thompson donor network has delivered money to candidates through several conduits, according to contributions reviewed by The Washington Post. Most directly, donations came from companies he owns or is otherwise affiliated with.
They include the accounting firm, his D.C. Healthcare Systems and its subsidiaries RapidTrans and Chartered Health Plan, which holds a city contract to handle Medicaid billings worth as much as $322 million yearly.
They also include two companies — Details International and Belle International — owned by Thompson associate Jeanne Clarke Harris, a public relations consultant whose home and offices also were searched by federal investigators.
Several other companies based at the 15th Street NW offices of the accounting firm are also frequent givers, almost always with other Thompson-related donations.
Businesses are permitted to donate to District political campaigns, although regulations mandate that contributions from subsidiary firms be counted against the limits on its parent company’s giving. Those rules appear not have been observed in the case of Thompson’s companies.
His coterie of donors also includes individuals Thompson employs or does business with. At least 14 partners and employees of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates and 12 employees of Chartered Health Plan have given to city candidates in the past five years.