Raids target home and office of Gray campaign figure
By Mike DeBonis and Nikita Stewart,
A woman who did communications work for D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign had her home and office searched Friday by federal investigators, according to people with knowledge of the probe.
The raids involving Jeanne Clarke Harris were carried out the same day investigators searched the home and office of a prominent city contractor and campaign financier. Harris is a public relations consultant with deep roots in city politics. She has ties to contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson that date back a decade.
Her company, Details International, was paid $20,000 from the Gray campaign in August 2010 for consulting, according to campaign finance records.
The company’s office was searched Friday, as first reported by WJLA (Channel 7), and confirmed by two people with knowledge of the investigation who were not allowed to comment publicly on the probe. Harris on Monday evening referred questions to lawyer Mark H. Tuohey III, who declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Thompson’s accounting firm acknowledged Monday that a federal search of its offices was related to “ongoing federal investigation into campaign finance in the District of Columbia.”
Ralph B. Bazilio, president and chief operating officer of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, said the firm “turned over documents and information relating to campaign fundraising events hosted by Jeff Thompson” in a letter sent to one of the D.C. government agencies with which it contracts.
“There has been no accusation of wrongdoing, and TCBA will continue to cooperate with the government’s investigation,” he wrote.
Friday’s raids come as a grand jury investigates allegations against Gray’s mayoral campaign. That investigation is focusing on irregularities in money-order donations and independent committees that might have collaborated with the campaign in violation of campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the investigation who are not allowed to speak publicly about the probe.
Investigators also have ordered D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan to preserve records pertaining to Thompson-owned Chartered Health Plan. A spokesman for Nathan’s office acknowledged the request Monday.
That would include documents regarding a controversial settlement the city reached with Chartered. Last September, the Gray administration agreed to pay $7.5 million in connection with a billing dispute over dental reimbursement rates. The settlement was paid over the objections of D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who insisted the contract was sound and noted that the company paid a $12 million settlement to the city in 2008 over improper billings.
Thompson did not return phone calls seeking comment. Two people familiar with the federal investigation said Thompson has retained Williams & Connolly partner Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. as his lawyer. Sullivan, one of the city’s most prominent white-collar defense lawyers, rarely speaks to the media and has not responded to numerous requests for comment.
The Gray administration is keeping quiet on the raids. “We don’t know anything, so we can’t comment on that,” spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said Sunday.
But Harris is not unfamiliar to the administration. On Jan. 8, Gray (D) issued a ceremonial proclamation commemorating Harris’s 75th birthday. District Secretary Cynthia Brock-Smith said the document was requested by Linda Mercado Greene, Gray’s girlfriend.
Thompson also continues to do a great deal of business with the District government. Chartered Health continues to be the city’s biggest Medicaid contractor and top overall contractor, holding a deal worth as much as $322 million yearly.
Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates also continues to hold major contracts. On Feb. 7, according to city spending records, TCBA was paid $998,128.44 from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. That payment was pursuant to a contract to evaluate and verify software related to the District’s basic accounting system, said David Umansky, a spokesman for the office.
The firm also holds a contract dating to 2010 to audit records in the District’s unemployment insurance office, recently rocked by revelations that dozens of workers double-dipped unemployment benefits while holding city jobs. That contract has been worth about $665,000 to date.
TCBA is also one of two bidders on a solicitation to build a Modernized Real Property Tax System — one meant to replace a system that was in place when a city tax office employee devised a scheme to steal nearly $50 million over two decades.
That contract has not yet been awarded, Umansky said.
Staff writers Tim Craig and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.