Jeffrey Thompson reimbursed employees for campaign donations, his former firm says

A prominent District-based accounting firm said its former majority owner, Jeffrey E. Thompson, had reimbursed company employees and others for their political donations, in apparent violation of campaign finance laws.

Bazilio Cobb Associates disclosed the findings of an internal review in an unsigned statement e-mailed to news outlets Friday night. The firm did not respond to a message.

The donations spanned a decade, the statement said, and were made in the names of firm employees as well as their family members and friends, who were then reimbursed at Thompson’s direction.

The statement said the firm has cooperated with federal investigators over the past 15 months and has “instituted very strict policies and controls.” The firm was known as Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates (TCBA) until July, when Thompson sold his 79 percent stake to partner Ralph B. Bazilio.

“The Firm is relieved that the cloud it has been under for the past 15 months will lift soon,” the statement said.

Once hailed as one of the nation’s largest minority-owned accounting and consulting firms, the company came under deep scrutiny after federal agents searched its offices in March 2012. The raid revealed authorities’ focus on Thompson, who has been a prodigious donor to local and federal candidates.

In July, public relations consultant Jeanne Clarke Harris, who was not an employee of the firm but was a close associate of Thompson’s, admitted in federal court to engaging in a host of campaign finance violations with an unnamed co-conspirator — including the financing of a $653,000 unreported “shadow campaign” to benefit Democrat Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 mayoral run. Numerous people familiar with the investigation have said that unnamed person was Thompson.

Thompson has not been charged, and his attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., has a policy of not commenting on pending matters.

This past week, former D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown also admitted in federal court to secretly taking funds from Thompson and Harris to bankroll a failed 2007 council run.

The firm’s disclosure comes two days after prosecutors charged an employee, Lee A. Calhoun of Silver Spring, with giving campaign donations in his own name when they were in fact funded by “Executive A,” whose description in court documents matches Thompson. Calhoun’s attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., said Calhoun intends to plead guilty.

Since 2001, Calhoun has donated nearly $100,000 in his name to dozens of campaigns and political committees, according to District, Maryland and federal campaign finance records. His wife donated tens of thousands of dollars more.

Under District, Maryland and federal law, contributions made directly to candidates are limited. In the District, for instance, a mayoral candidate may take no more than $2,000 from any one individual or company.

One recent campaign that has come under federal scrutiny, Vincent B. Orange’s 2011 campaign to fill a vacated at-large D.C. Council seat, received 12 donations, totaling $10,500, from TCBA employees, including several listed on the Bazilio Cobb Web site.

Six additional maximum donations came from Thompson’s other major business concern, D.C. Healthcare Systems, and employees of its subsidiary D.C. Chartered Health Plan.

The statement Friday night said the firm “regrets that its employees and their family members and friends were ensnared by the aggressive solicitation of campaign contributions” and said current firm leadership has taken and “will take responsibility for any actions or inactions that wittingly or unwittingly facilitated this conduct.”

The firm said investigators have not alleged any link between the campaign contributions and the millions of dollars in government contracts the firm has won over the past decade, saying it secured the deals “solely upon its established reputation for doing excellent work and the quality of its bid.”

William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, declined to comment.

Nikita Stewart and Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

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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