- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RapidTrans Inc., a medical transportation company that gave up its license to drive passengers in 2008 and later lost its incorporation status, continues to deliver one thing: campaign cash to D.C. politicians.

The company — which in 2007 listed as its president Jeffrey E. Thompson, the D.C. power broker whose offices and home were raided by federal agents earlier this month — has given thousands of dollars to city politicians since 2010, with donations frequently coming on the same day as maximum contributions from Mr. Thompson, his business interests or associates.

Mr. Thompson owns an insurance plan that does hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the D.C. government as well as an accounting firm that has won city contracts.

The backgrounds of other entities that have given to city politicians are harder to figure, two of which seemingly don’t exist anywhere but on the paperwork filed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty in a theft case unrelated to the donations and is awaiting sentencing.

In less than a week in the fall of 2010, two companies — Alban Strategies and Westover Marketing — donated the maximum amount allowed by law to both Mr. Gray and Mr. Thomas. But government records show no entity named Alban Strategies or Westover Marketing as having been incorporated in Washington or Virginia, the locations for the companies provided on campaign records.

“This raises red flags galore,” Craig Holman, legislative representative for D.C.-based Public Citizen, said of the RapidTrans donations. “This has every appearance of being a classic pay-to-play scheme.”

Phone messages left for Mr. Thompson at his accounting office, D.C.-based Thompson Cobb Bazilio & Associates, were not returned this week or last.

RapidTrans last filed a biannual report with the city government in 2007, but it never filed another two-year report, and so its corporate status would have been deemed revoked at the end of 2009, records show.

According to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission, the company voluntarily surrendered its operating authority in August 2008.

Still, RapidTrans remained a reliable source of campaign funds for city lawmakers.

On Oct. 29, 2010, for instance, RapidTrans gave $2,000 to Mr. Gray. The campaign also received $2,000 checks that day from Alban Strategies and Westover Marketing.

In campaign disclosures, the Gray campaign listed an address for Westover at an office suite on the 2100 block of Cooperative Way in Reston. That’s the home of the Alban Institute, a nonprofit group that works with churches.

Newer company

Molly Wade, director of institutional advancement at Alban, said the institute has been based at the same address for years, long before the donations. She said the institute has never donated to Mr. Gray or Mr. Thomas. She also said the institute has no connection to Alban Strategies.

Doxie McCoy, spokeswoman for Mr. Gray, on Wednesday said the mayor’s campaign had been run with the “utmost integrity” and declined to comment on any specific contributions.

Both Alban and Westover also gave maximum donations to Mr. Thomas on Nov. 5, 2010, the same day he received a donation from RapidTrans.

RapidTrans also donated, among others, to Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, a Democrat, and council members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and Phil Mendelson and Vincent B. Orange, both at-large Democrats.

While RapidTrans isn’t in good business standing anymore, a company called Rapid Trans Services Inc. began in 2008. It also has donated lots of money to city politicians.

The company doesn’t list Mr. Thompson as one of its officers, showing instead Jeanne Clark Harris, whose firm did work for Mr. Gray’s mayoral campaign. Her home and office were raided by the FBI earlier this month on the same day Mr. Thompson’s home and office were searched, The Washington Post has reported.

Ms. Harris declined to comment Tuesday and referred messages to an attorney, who did not return phone messages.

In some cases, Rapid Trans Services gave donations to lawmakers on the same day as RapidTrans Inc., as well as other entities tied to both Mr. Thompson and Ms. Harris.

Ms. Harris also appears on corporate filings for another company called Belle International, which has given more than $12,000 to city lawmakers since 2008. She also has public relations firm, Details International, which has donated in numerous D.C. campaigns.

The maximum allowed

Belle International donated $1,500 to Mr. Brown’s campaign on June 11, 2010, the same day that Rapid Trans Services and Details International each gave separate $1,500 donations. All three were the maximum allowed for a D.C. Council chairman’s race.

Similarly, Mr. Graham received $500 in donations from both Belle and Rapid Trans Inc. on the same day in 2010, the maximum donation in a ward race.

Mr. Graham said Wednesday that the donation he received from RapidTrans was paid through a check and that he received no money orders from Mr. Thompson or any entities tied to him. He said because the RapidTrans donation came in the form of a check, he had no reason to believe the company wouldn’t be in good business standing.

Mr. Orange, meanwhile, is under scrutiny after disclosing that his campaign had received more than two dozen money orders to his campaign. His office did not return a phone message Wednesday.

D.C. law allows companies to contribute to D.C. political campaigns, but limits a parent company and its subsidiaries to a single campaign contribution limit.

The Washington Times reported Monday that insurance filings from 2005 to 2009 show that RapidTrans Inc., D.C. Chartered Health Plan and the Chartered Family Health Plan are part of the same corporate structure under Mr. Thompson’s holding company, D.C. Healthcare Systems.

However, campaign filings show more than a dozen political races over the years in which D.C. Healthcare Systems and one or more of its affiliates separately gave maximum donations to D.C. politicians on the same day.

In a statement to The Times, a spokesman for the Office of Campaign Finance Office said that “any active principal campaign committee of a candidate is subject to an ongoing review process.”