- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2012

A prolific campaign donor under federal investigation for contributions in D.C. elections is also linked to a quarter-million dollars given to Maryland politicians, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, two likely Democratic candidates for governor in 2014 and two prominent county executives over the past 13 years.

Mr. O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, and Montgomery and Prince George’s County Executives Isiah “Ike” Leggett and Rushern L. Baker III, have received contributions from a network of donors affiliated with Jeffrey E. Thompson in a similar pattern to political contributions made in the District.

The donations often involve the maximum allowed amount, are usually made on the same day and come from Mr. Thompson, his companies, his affiliates and associates. People and companies within the Thompson network have made contributions to a wide range of Maryland candidates totaling upward of $268,000 since 1999, according to campaign finance records.

Federal agents raided Mr. Thompson’s home and offices and that of his longtime spokeswoman, Jeanne Harris, in March.

The investigation seems to be contained to the District — where six D.C. Council members’ offices have confirmed receipt of subpoenas requesting campaign-finance records related to Mr. Thompson, his associates and business ventures.

Mr. Thompson, a businessman whose company, D.C. Chartered Health Plan, won hundreds of millions of dollars in business from the District, provides managed care services to city Medicaid patients, as well as other low-income residents enrolled in the city-funded D.C. Healthcare Alliance plan. He also headed the high-powered accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, which has headquarters in the District and offices in Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and California. WAMU-FM reported last week that he resigned from the firm.

Mr. Thompson has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and the practice of organizing contributions from companies, employees, their families and affiliated firms — called “bundling” — is not illegal.

Campaign finance analysts have speculated that federal investigators could be attempting to determine whether any contributors were reimbursed for their donations, or used as “straw donors,” in what would be an illegal scheme to evade campaign-finance limits.

Brendan Sullivan, an attorney for Mr. Thompson, has declined to speak about the investigation, writing in an email that he doesn’t comment on matters related to clients.

Martin O’Malley

Mr. O’Malley took in tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Mr. Thompson’s network on Sept. 22, 2010, in the midst of a re-election bid against Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The Washington City Paper first reported that on a single day Mr. O’Malley received 18 contributions of $4,000 each — the maximum campaign donation allowed per candidate — from associates of Mr. Thompson.

An analysis of campaign-finance records by The Washington Times concluded that at least $74,200 out of the approximately $98,000 in donations that Mr. O’Malley collected on that day came from Mr. Thompson’s co-workers, associates and affiliated companies.

That figure does not include donations made on other days to Mr. O’Malley’s campaign by people in Mr. Thompson’s network, including Mr. Thompson’s own $2,000 donation in 2009, the $4,000 contributed by his accounting firm or $4,000 contributed by D.C. Healthcare Systems, which Mr. Thompson also owns. Nor does the figure include a $2,000 donation given by Albert Lucas, a principal at Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, and $1,000 given by Joe Lowry, the chief financial officer at D.C. Chartered Health Plan, a subsidiary of D.C. Healthcare Systems, that were given on the same day.

A comparison of the names on a D.C. Council member’s subpoena shows Mr. O’Malley has received donations from seven of the 10 people or businesses listed on the subpoena.

Mr. O’Malley said he has not received a subpoena for campaign-finance records related to the donations.

“Over the course of several campaigns, we’ve raised several million dollars from several thousand people,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said of the Thompson-related contributions. “I can’t really comment on an investigation that I’m unaware of. We disclose every contribution, we vet them and on rare occasions, if any wrongdoing is found, we generally return them. And in this case, I’m not aware of any wrongdoing.”

The seven entities listed in the subpoenas circulated in the District that provided donations to Mr. O’Malley are Mr. Thompson; Michael Cobb; Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates; D.C. Healthcare System; Ms. Harris; Details International Inc.; and Belle International Inc.

Others who also donated on Sept. 22, 2010, include Stanley Straughter of Philadelphia, who lists both Oak Lane Consulting Group and Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates as his employers in different federal campaign finance filings.

Maximum donations also came from Rena Straughter, who lists the same Philadelphia address as Mr. Straughter, and Oak Lane Consulting Group. The Straughters and Oak Lane have pumped $38,000 into various D.C. elections since 2006 and were among those who made maximum donations to campaigns on the same days as many others in Mr. Thompson’s network, according to D.C. campaign finance records.

Also donating on that date was Christopher Lawson, president of the Bowie-based business Insuraty, which according to the Washington City Paper has contracted with D.C. Chartered Health Plan. Mr. Lawson gave the maximum donation allowable — $4,000 — to Mr. O’Malley’s campaign.

Almost a month later, a Chris Lawson, who provides the same Bowie address in campaign finance records, made a $2,500 donation to the same campaign.

Neither Mr. Lawson, nor the Straughters nor any of the other donors named responded to messages seeking comment about their campaign contributions on that day.

Anthony G. Brown

Mr. Brown, a Democrat widely considered to be planning a run for governor in 2014, netted at least $20,500 from the Thompson network on a single day in 2006, when he was campaigning as Mr. O’Malley’s running mate.

Some of those donations appear to have violated Maryland campaign finance law, as two companies that gave maximum donations on the same day are owned by the same holding company.

RapidTrans and Chartered Family Health Center were listed as being owned by Mr. Thompson’s D.C. Healthcare Systems in a 2007 report by D.C. insurance regulators. Yet on Oct. 25, 2006, each company donated $4,000 to Mr. Brown’s campaign.

Maryland campaign finance law bans business entities from giving more than $4,000 to a candidate in one election cycle if one of the corporations wholly owns the other or if the stockholders of the companies are the same.

Representatives from Mr. Brown’s office said he and his campaign have not been contacted by any legal authorities regarding donations from Mr. Thompson or any of his associates.

They added that the lieutenant governor’s office typically complies with fundraising investigations and relinquishes funds that are found to be donated under illegal or unethical circumstances.

In addition to the donations by RapidTrans and Chartered Family Health Center, Mr. Thompson and his accounting firm each donated $4,000 on the same day. Several associates and employees of Mr. Thompson’s businesses also made donations.

Lee Calhoun, a principal at Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, donated $1,000. He and Michelle Calhoun, who resides at the same Silver Spring address, were among those who each donated $4,000 to Mr. O’Malley’s campaign on Sept. 22, 2010, and contributed maximum donations to a number of campaigns in the District on the same days as other associates of Mr. Thompson.

Others who donated on the same day to Mr. Brown’s campaign are David W. Wilmot, a D.C. lobbyist who has represented Mr. Thompson’s companies; Francis Smith, a senior vice president at D.C. Chartered Health Plan; Mr. Lawson; and Michelle Haywood, a spokeswoman for Insuraty.

According to Maryland taxation records, Insuraty had its business license forfeited in October 2009, yet campaign contributions were made on the company’s behalf in 2010 and 2011. The company was among those that donated to Mr. O’Malley on Sept. 22, 2010, giving $2,500.

Mr. Smith in an email response to questions declined to comment about his two $500 donations. Neither Mr. Lawson, Ms. Haywood, nor any of the other contributors named returned messages seeking comment.

Peter V.R. Franchot

Four of the same people who donated to Mr. Brown and Mr. O’Malley on the same days also gave money to Mr. Franchot on a single day in 2008 — the same day of a $3,000 contribution from D.C. Healthcare Systems.

Mr. Thompson, and Lee and Michelle Calhoun all gave $3,000 to Mr. Franchot’s campaign on October 22, 2008. Mr. Lawson donated $200 on that day.

Three others, also with ties to Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, gave an additional $8,000 to Mr. Franchot on that day.

Lawrence Wilson, a principal at the accounting firm, and Gloria Wilson, who resides at the same Bowie address as Mr. Wilson, both gave $3,000. Joseph Wilson, who lists Mr. Thompson’s accounting firm as his employer in national campaign-finance records, gave $2,000 on that day. The same three individuals are responsible for at least $55,950 in political donations to candidates running for office in the District since 2002, according to D.C. campaign finance records.

Mr. Franchot, a Democrat also considered to be preparing for a 2014 gubernatorial run, appears to have collected at least $20,200 on that day alone from Mr. Thompson’s associates and affiliates. The donations came after his 2006 election to the statewide office of comptroller and as he was ramping up for re-election efforts in 2010.

Mr. Franchot’s office referred questions to campaign officials, who did not return requests for comment.

County executives

While donations to some politicians are clustered on specific days, a broader look at the donations that those in the Thompson network gave shows a wide range of Maryland recipients who benefited.

Among others, Mr. Thompson gave $4,000 contributions — the maximum amount allowed per candidate per election cycle — are Mr. Ehrlich, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, former Baltimore City Council member Kenneth Harris Sr., and former state Delegate Herman Taylor.

Less money was donated to county executive candidates, but among the lists of those found to be giving large sums of money on the same days for those races were people who also contributed maximum amounts to the campaigns of D.C. politicians on days when bundling there has come into question.

On the day after Mr. Leggett, a Democrat, won his first term as executive in Montgomery County in 2006, he received $45,005 in donations. Close to a third of those, $14,000, came from Mr. Thompson, his businesses and employees. The Calhouns, Mr. Thompson, D.C. Healthcare Systems and Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, all contributed.

“I don’t know those people,” Mr. Leggett said, adding his campaign-finance records have not been subpoenaed.

During his campaign for the county’s top leadership position, Mr. Leggett said he sought out donations from people and companies who had given in past elections and saw an increase in contributions from business people toward the end of the race.

“Most business people who gave, gave late in the process or after the primary,” Mr. Leggett said. “Toward the end when they saw we were going to win, we started to get more donations.”

In the most recent race in Prince George’s County in 2010, RapidTrans and D.C. Healthcare Systems both donated $4,000 to Mr. Baker on Sept. 2, 2010, close to two weeks before the primary.

The donation from RapidTrans is questionable, as the company voluntarily surrendered its operating authority in 2008 and had its corporate status revoked at the end of 2009, according to Metro records filed in the District. A company called Rapid Trans Services Inc. was incorporated in the District in 2008, and Jeanne Harris was listed as one of its principals.

Two others who donated to Mr. Baker, a Democrat, on the September date are Keith Hendy and Celeste Harris. Both listed the same Lanham address on campaign finance records and each donated $2,000.

On national campaign-finance records, Mr. Hendy reported that he works at Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates. Both Mr. Hendy and Ms. Harris also made maximum contributions to candidates in the latest D.C. elections on days that many other of Mr. Thompson’s affiliates have made maximum amount donations. They did not respond to an email seeking comment.

A request for comment submitted to campaign officials though Mr. Baker’s spokesman was not returned.

David Hill contributed to this report.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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