Loose Lips

Money Orders Abound for Thompson-Backed Candidates

Yesterday, LL noted and WAMU's Patrick Madden detailed that Councilmember Vincent Orange's campaign last year accepted several thousand dollars worth of donations in the form of $1,000 money orders, according to his campaign records. Most of the money orders came from people or businesses with ties to Jeff Thompson, the contractor and donor whose home and offices were raided last week by federal law enforcement authorities.

There is, of course, nothing illegal about accepting campaign contributions in the form of money orders. But their prevalence in donations linked to Thompson raises plenty of eyebrows because 1) they are a rare form of payment in most campaign finance reports, especially in large amounts like $1,000 and 2) the Washington Post detailed last year how Mayor Vince Gray's campaign had the unusual habit of converting cash donations into money orders to circumvent the $25 limit on cash donations. The Post has already noted that the Thompson network of donors appears to have given money orders to the Gray campaign.

A look at campaign finance reports of Thompson-backed candidates in recent races shows that money orders were a common practice. Last summer, LL counted $13,000 worth of donations from the Thompson network to Ward 6 challenger Kelvin Robinson's 2010 unsuccessful campaign and $6,000 to Jeff Smith, who lost the Ward 1 race that same year.

The first campaign finance report of Robinson shows 12 different money order donations, all at the $500 maximum limit, all given on the same date. Four of those money orders come from LLCs owned by Thompson. Robinson, who was former Mayor Anthony Williams' chief of staff, says he sees nothing odds with the money orders he received from Thompson.

"It's an acceptable form of campaign contributions," he says. "I don't know why there were so many."

Robinson says he didn't witness any donor give his campaign money orders. He says Thompson threw him a fundraiser at his accounting firm and was responsible for rounding up the donations.

"He handled the fundraising portion of it," says Robinson, who noted that the donors at the fundraiser also gave through checks and credit cards.

The first campaign finance report of Smith, who lost to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham in 2010, reports 30 money orders at the $500 maximum amount. Several of Thompson's companies are listed as having given money orders, as well as Carrietta Butts, a Georgia resident who has never lived in the District. She told LL last year that she's an old friend of Thompson's. Smith didn't immediately return a call seeking comment today.

Again, LL feels the need to point out that there's nothing improper about receiving money orders as campaign payments. But the fact that there are so many money orders tied to Thompson is worth pointing out as the federal investigation into Gray's campaign heats up.

Photo via U.S. Postal Service

  • skinsfan83

    Sounds like the only ones complaining are the ones who cant raise any money.

    You should know that politics is based around having an awesome fundraising strategy. As long as it is within the rules, it should be allowed.

    Regardless of how much money you raise, the vote is the only thing that counts.

    If your movement does not convince the citizens your the best overall candidate, then you already know what your status is...

  • Corruption is killing DC

    @skinsfan83: Nice rationalization. Ok, so using money to influence elections is not illegal in itself, and voters are allowed to vote for whomever they want.

    But we all have a right and a duty to find out who is paying for the campaigns, so when the candidate later favors certain interests over others, we can trace the quo to the quid.

  • Typical DC BS

    Any pictures of Mr. Thompson? I'm sure I've seen him around town at various functions over the years.

  • city blues
  • city blues

    Jeffrey Thompson - $81249 in Political Contributions for 2004 Sep 10, 2011 … Jeffrey Thompson - $81249 in Political Contributions for 2004, Campaign Finance, Money, American politics, … http://www.campaignmoney.com/political... - Options

  • city blues
  • My2cents

    @corruption I think people are just mad that they honestly dont have people that will invest in their campaign. If people are hiding money or stealing from the government then they are at fault.

    But.....receiving campaign contributions from people outside of the city or people willing to invest in a campaign because one man believes in that person should not raise this much drama..

  • skinsfan83

    Since Thompson is not a factor in this election, if any challenger loses or has a low reporting of cash, its their fault. Clearly Gray's situation is crazy because people were taking cash donations and turning them into Money Orders.

    If Thompson has supported various campaigns dating back to whenever and after all this time it finally became an issue, then clearly its about the Cash converted into Money Orders and not the overall donations.

    Sounds like the challengers better rethink who their friends are or their network. Yall have some cheap friends/associates lol

  • CDCWDC
  • NE John

    Money orders were allegedly used to pay Sulamon Brown to attack Fenty during the campaign. Question is, what did Gray do or know with respect to these payments? Stay tuned ...

  • skinsfan83

    @NEJohn what candidate that honestly believes he can win will have enough time in the day to dedicate towards taking money orders and paying someone and giving them the rundown/monitor their antics?

    Not singling you out or anything but just in general, if you understood how crazy running a campaign is, you would realize that the only time a group really sees their candidate is during a debate, or during an event. The majority of the time the camp is doing all the legwork and the candidate has their own agenda of meetings and events to attend.

    Also its very rare that a candidate controls operations outside of him being the candidate. You cant possibly win being a candidate, trying to control finances, field operations, GOTV etc.

    Therefore there is a good chance that yes, Gray's workers committed these "dumb" moves and he honestly not be involved with the corrupt operation.

    Same thing as someone dropping out of the race. You rarely see a candidate call another candidate and say "hey....do me a favor and drop out of the race". But you will see people from both camps and other experts/voters talking about it and someone a meeting is set up between the candidate and others resulting in a drop out.

    So there are plenty of scenarios that come into play, but you honestly have to assess the likelihood of it actually happening.

    As Fenty being the Mayor at the time, do you honestly think if there was some fishy stuff going on that his sources would have pointed it out, and he would have brought it up? Im sure candidates get the inside scoop on wild stuff prior to it happening.

    Everyone knows Sulaimon is crazy, how could they have honestly made that work so smoothly and their not be any lapses in the race? How do we know Sulaimon's initial strategy was to do whatever he could to split the vote to knock Fenty off, and Brooks put that bug in Browns ear like "hey....if you keep bashing Fenty we can get this dude out, how bout I kick you some cash to make it easier"

    just possibilitites.

    P.S. Converting cash into money orders for campaign contributions is wrong.. A hard working man who is somewhat the "Oprah of Fundraising" in a sense that people believe in him enough to take action based off his reccommendations is not.

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