ASK D.C. COUNCIL member Vincent B. Orange (D-At large) what tops his agenda if he gets reelected, and the answer is ethics. But good government is more than just talk. That’s what makes his fumbling response to questions about donations he received in last year’s special election a concern.
At issue are 26 money orders, each for $1,000, received over two days last March by Mr. Orange’s campaign. The money orders were first reported by WAMU reporter Patrick Madden, who, after a federal raid on the home and offices of businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, traced some of the contributions to individuals or companies associated with Mr. Thompson. Eleven of the money orders are from outside the District, six of them with addresses in California or Georgia.
Mr. Orange — who faces three other candidates April 3 in his bid for reelection — is correct in maintaining there is no evidence he has done anything wrong. His campaign duly reported the donations to the Office of Campaign Finance. But the use of money orders for campaign donations is rare; someone forking over $1,000 to a political candidate generally has a checking account. So the concern is whether the money orders to Mr. Orange were used to camouflage donations that exceeded the legal giving limits. Releasing the documents would shed light by showing where and when they were purchased.
Mr. Orange initially told us Wednesday that he believed that the money orders were from legitimate contributors who attended a fundraiser sponsored by Mr. Thompson. Mr. Orange has balked at releasing the money orders, maintaining that only his opponents are demanding the records to make political mischief.
It was a curious comment considering that it was inquiries from Mr. Orange, then challenging Kwame R. Brown (D) in a 2010 bid for council chairman, that led to the current federal scrutiny of Mr. Brown’s 2008 campaign finances. If there was wrongdoing with donations, shouldn’t Mr. Orange — an accountant and a lawyer — do everything in his power to uncover it?
Friday afternoon, Mr. Orange called us to report that additional records would be provided the Office of Campaign Finance. He said he planned to spend the weekend examining the records to determine if the persons listed on the money orders did indeed make the donations. “I certainly don’t have anything to hide, ” he said. That’s good to hear, but Mr. Orange needs to follow up with full disclosure.