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Mr. Orange noted he has not received money from Mr. Thompson for his current campaign for re-election. To refund contributions from prior, closed campaigns, Mr. Orange said he would have to re-open the relevant campaign and raise the necessary money, just so he could give it to Mr. Thompson.

“That’s the only way you could do it,” he said.

A spokesman for council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, said there is no basis for trying to return any money related to Mr. Thompson. Any funds received from Mr. Thompson or his affiliates were “actual checks from real people,” said Brendan Williams-Kief. “The contributions were appropriately reported and vetted by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.”

Mr. Catania is the chairman of the Committee on Health and a known critic of Mr. Thompson, who has been forced to seek a buyer for his lucrative managed-care firm, D.C. Chartered Health Plan, by October because the city does not want him to hold the contract any longer.

While campaigns can’t keep leftover money for a future election, D.C. elected officials still can transfer funds to a constituent service account, donate it to charity or send the funds to a political party for political purposes, according to Wesley Williams, spokesman for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

Red flags

The Obama campaign confirmed this week that it was returning the Thompson money, but an email obtained by The Washington Times shows the campaign was put on notice in March. Such red flags are common in politics, veteran campaign operatives say. The email warning came from a local political consultant who wrote: “As a longtime Obama supporter, I write today to bring a matter to your attention in hopes that I can help the Obama campaign avoid any possible embarrassment. Jeffrey Thompson, a major Obama donor, is currently under federal investigation after his office and home were raided this past weekend. My concern is that, as this story continues to grow in scope and profile, the Obama campaign could get pulled into the story.”

Like other campaigns, the Obama campaign appears to have ignored that warning until it was reported recently that Mr. Thompson and his network of affiliates donated $10,000 to the campaign.

“With over 2.4 million donors thus far, we constantly review those contributions for issues, in this case we have refunded the contribution,” an Obama campaign official wrote in an email Tuesday evening, after sending the same quote earlier in the day to Politico, which first reported the return of Mr. Thompson’s $10,000 contribution.

Yet the Obama campaign has been silent about what it plans to do with another roughly $20,000 it has received from Mr. Thompson’s associates, including $2,500 from Harris, who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to funneling illegal campaign cash to Mr. Gray’s 2010 campaign.

On Jan. 31, 2008, the Obama campaign received a $2,000 donation from Harris. That same day, the campaign collected $2,300 contributions from Audrey L. Albert, another donor whose name appeared on a subpoena sent to D.C. elected officials earlier this year, as well as from donors identifying themselves as employees of an accounting firm Mr. Thompson founded and an affiliated firm.

The same questions facing Mr. Obama about what to do with donations tied to Mr. Thompson just as well could be facing dozens of D.C. and federal campaigns — Democratic and Republican alike.

In fact, Mr. Thompson and his associates gave significantly more money to Mr. Obama’s chief competitor in the 2008 Democratic primary, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The network of Thompson-affiliated donors spans from local school board candidates to White House campaigns for both parties. And Mr. Thompson, though largely giving to Democrats locally where that party dominates politics, also gave $25,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2004, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Thompson also donated to the campaign of President George W. Bush.

Election law violations

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