VO and Those “Suspicious” Money Orders
Thanks a lot, Jo-Ann Armao! The Washington Post editorial writer has been hounding Councilmember Vincent Orange about $1,000 money orders his 2011 campaign received from donors with ties to fat cat donor Jeff Thompson. (Thompson's home and office were recently raided by the feds as part of a probe into possible campaign finance violations.)
Orange has denied similar requests from other reporters and his challengers in this year's at-large primary, but must have a soft spot for Armao. In today's Post, Orange says that after reviewing the money orders in question, he found some that he thinks are "suspicious and questionable as to who actually paid for the money orders." Orange showed the Post some of the orders, and the paper's editorial noted that "some checks, ostensibly from different donors, have seemingly identical signatures. Sequential serial numbers on others suggest purchases made at a single time and place, possible signs that the orders were used to shield straw-man donations."
All interesting stuff, but while everyone else was clamoring for Orange to release his money orders, LL went down to the Office of Campaign Finance last week and managed to get copies of many of them.
It turns out that the auditing division of OCF asked Orange last year to supply copies of checks, credit card receipts, and money orders of several donors, many of them who are part of Thompson's donor network, who shared the same address. What's in those records? LL needs to save some for his column for this week's paper, but below are copies of a series of donations that may be what Orange meant by "suspicious."
They belong to Lee Calhoun and his family members. Calhoun works at Thompson's accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, and is a frequent giver to D.C. politicos. Calhoun and his wife each wrote Orange a $1,000 check for his campaign. Four other family members donated the same amount, but used money orders. Calhoun confirmed that the names in the below money orders are family members but declined to give specifics. When LL started asking questions, Calhoun said, "I'm busy. Thank you," and hung up the phone. He did not return a call seeking additional comment.
What makes the donations slightly suspicious is the fact that the writing on the four money orders appears to be similar, if not identical, to the writing on Calhoun's personal check. LL's no handwriting expert, but you can judge for yourself below. Additionally, two postal money orders, one for a family member listed as having a Silver Spring address and one listed as a D.C. resident, came from the same clerk at the same post office on the same day. Their serial numbers are almost sequential.
Look at the money orders and checks after the jump.
Here's a look at Calhoun's personal check:
Here are the two postal money orders from Calhoun's family members:
Here are the two additional money orders from family members:
None of this is proof of any wrongdoing. But if Orange himself is calling donations to his campaign suspicious and questionable, then these might be worth a closer look.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery