- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — A key figure in the federal investigation into widespread campaign irregularities in Washington has twice faced misdemeanor criminal charges over election-law complaints in Maryland, records show.

Ralph B. Bazilio, a partner at a prominent Washington accounting firm raided last month by federal agents, was accused of failing to file campaign finance disclosures in 2006 for a political action committee called BizPAC, according to records on file with the District Court for Anne Arundel County.

The case was dropped after the committee paid thousands of dollars in fines and filed up-to-date campaign disclosures. It has since shut down.

The Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor filed an earlier campaign finance case against Mr. Bazilio, but the file was not available for inspection Thursday.

Since the March raid, Mr. Bazilio’s name largely has been overshadowed by that of his longtime accounting partner, Jeffrey E. Thompson, who founded Thompson Cobb Bazilio & Associates and who separately owns D.C. Chartered Health Plan, the city’s biggest Medicaid contractor.

While authorities are looking into Mr. Thompson’s political fundraising activities, Mr. Bazilio is a prodigious political donor in his own right. Like Mr. Thompson, he, too, was named in the federal subpoena sent to several D.C. lawmakers seeking records about political fundraising activities.

Mr. Bazilio, his wife and the accounting firm that bears his name have donated more than $45,000 over the years to politicians in Maryland, where Thompson Cobb Bazilio & Associates has won county and state auditing contracts. He also served on the transition team for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

According to court records, Mr. Bazilio’s most recent legal problems in Maryland began in late 2006 when the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office charged him with failure to file 2006 campaign finance forms for BizPAC. Mr. Bazilio served as its treasurer.

A criminal summons issued in the case noted that an officer tried to serve the complaint on Mr. Bazilio but was unable to reach him. Court records list a Washington phone number that is the same as the one for Mr. Bazilio’s office in Washington, but phone and email messages left Thursday were not returned.

However, he told the Washington Informer newspaper this month that the federal investigation had nothing to do with the accounting firm’s clients.

The criminal charges against Mr. Bazilio were dropped after the political action committee paid nearly $4,000 in late fees and filed timely reports before shutting down in 2007.

Jared DeMarnis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the board referred the case to prosecutors after BizPAC failed to file reports as required by state election law.

“The state prosecutor is our enforcement agency, and once they get the case they have complete carte blanche over its entire disposition at that point,” he said.

James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor’s office, while not commenting on Mr. Bazilio’s case specifically, said such cases typically are filed against the treasurer or person legally responsible for a campaign committee.

“If reports aren’t filed timely, the Maryland Board of Elections starts sending out notices saying you have to file,” he said. “If they still don’t meet the requirements, the case gets referred to us, and we try to get them to file. If they’re still unresponsive, then we file criminal charges.”

At that point, Mr. Cabezas said, most campaign officials file the reports and pay fines and the case is dropped, which is what appears to have happened in Mr. Bazilio’s case, according to court records.

But according to online records from an earlier case, it wasn’t the first time Mr. Bazilio found himself in legal trouble over campaign finance issues.

The State Prosecutor’s Office filed another failure-to-file campaign finance report case against Mr. Bazilio in 2005, and the outcome appears the same. Court records in that case list an address for Mr. Bazilio in Washington, while the more-recent case lists an address in Bowie.

It’s unclear whether the earlier case stemmed from Mr. Bazilio’s role as treasurer of BizPAC, which despite the years of regulatory problems seems to have done little fundraising or donating to politicians. Both cases ended when prosecutors filed a “nolle prosequi” motion, which means they decided not to proceed.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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