- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2012

Myrtle Gomez and her company, Nursing Enterprises Inc., have donated more than $20,000 to D.C. and federal politicians over the years, even as the D.C.-based home health agency has struggled to pay years of overdue taxes.

Contribution records suggest that Ms. Gomez and the company have been part of a fundraising network involving D.C. businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, the target of a federal campaign finance investigation involving years of contributions to city politicians.

After a raid by federal investigators of his home and office, Mr. Thompson recently resigned as chairman of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, the city’s biggest Medicaid contractor. His attorney has declined to comment.

Ms. Gomez, whose attorney says she has not been contacted by federal investigators, is just one of dozens of donors who have given politicians money in ways that closely align with donations from Mr. Thompson and his associates.

There is nothing illegal or improper about like-minded donors giving to the same candidates, but the contributions from Ms. Gomez and Nursing Enterprises provide an example of how Mr. Thompson’s fundraising success was fueled in part by people and businesses with whom he had financial ties.

For years, Ms. Gomez has served as a member of the board of directors for Mr. Thompson’s health plan, but she also held a separate, more personal financial relationship with the prominent D.C. contractor, records show.

In 2006, Mr. Thompson and Ms. Gomez signed a “conditional assignment” that remains on file with the D.C. Office of the Recorder of the Deeds involving Ms. Gomez’s residential property on Colorado Avenue Northwest, which was assessed for $684,360 last year.

Under the agreement, the property would “automatically transfer” to Mr. Thompson if she doesn’t comply with the terms of what the document calls a guaranty promissory note, dated Oct. 23, 2006. The amount of the loan isn’t disclosed in the document, but an attorney for Ms. Gomez said that while Mr. Thompson served as a guarantor, he did not advance her any money.

Nonetheless, the public filing also says that if Ms. Gomez, who was hit with a six-figure federal tax lien this year, fails to comply with the agreement, Mr. Thompson would have the unconditional right to sell the property at fair market value.

Asked whether such an arrangement could pose a conflict of interest involving Ms. Gomez’s duties as an outside board member, Karen Dale, a spokeswoman for D.C. Chartered Health, declined to comment on the loan arrangement. She called it a private matter between Mr. Thompson and Ms. Gomez.

Charles Ray, an attorney for Ms. Gomez, said Ms. Gomez’s independence as a board member for the health care firm has never been compromised by the arrangement. He also pointed out that neither Chartered Health nor its parent company, D.C. Healthcare Systems, which is owned by Mr. Thompson, participated in the agreement.

In addition, Mr. Ray said that Ms. Gomez’s political contributions are her own. He said the loan deal never influenced her decisions on making donations to any candidate.

He also said the tax troubles stem from payments for services the government owes Nursing Enterprises that remain unpaid. He said Ms. Gomez is on a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service to resolve federal tax liens filed against the company.

Still, the tax troubles haven’t stopped Ms. Gomez’s company from donating to city politicians both before and after the loan agreement.

On March 28, 2007, Nursing Enterprises donated $500, the maximum allowed, to D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat.

Among the dozens who gave to Ms. Alexander that same day were employees of Mr. Thompson’s health plan as well as KMJ Development and RapidTrans Inc., both Thompson-controlled entities.

Eugenia Harris also gave that day, and her name is on the federal subpoena sent last month to D.C. lawmakers requesting campaign finance records related to Mr. Thompson, his associates and business ventures as part of the ongoing probe.

In a more recent example, Nursing Enterprises gave $1,000 to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray on June 10, 2010, the same day he received donations from, among others, Belle International and Details International, both of which were listed in the subpoenas sent to D.C. lawmakers.

Months earlier, Nursing Enterprises donated $1,000 to former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who lost to Mr. Gray and who raised donations for others who have been tied to Mr. Thompson.

Overall, Nursing Enterprises has given $13,500 to D.C. politicians over the years, with Ms. Gomez personally donating another $2,500, according to D.C. Office of Campaign Finance records.

Federal campaign disclosures show Ms. Gomez also has donated more than $5,000 to congressional and presidential races. Still, they are hardly the only donors contributing to some of the same candidates Mr. Thompson has helped bankroll.

A North Carolina consulting firm and its founder, Bruce Cromartie, have donated more than $10,000 to D.C. political races since 2006. The firm’s website lists D.C. Chartered Health as a client.

Another company, Beacon Health Strategies, based in Massachusetts, and its executives have given more than $10,000 in contributions combined.

Beacon and Chartered Health announced a strategic partnership in 2008, whereby Beacon would administer behavioral health benefits for Chartered Health.

Closer to home, Ian’s Hair Studio on Capitol Hill, along with its owner, Ian Thorne, also have made contributions tied to fundraising by Mr. Thompson. WAMU-Radio reported last month that the land where the hair studio is located is owned by Mr. Thompson.