VO’s Tin Ear
Friday afternoon, Councilmember Vincent Orange took to Twitter to crow about the fact that the Office of Campaign Finance had completed an audit of Orange's 2011 campaign and made no referrals to federal law enforcement agencies or the newly formed Board of Ethics.
That's about as sad as Councilmember Jim Graham boasting about the time he refused a cash-filled enveloped dropped on his desk by his then-chief of staff. In other words, it's very, very sad.
For starters, the FBI isn't waiting around for OCF to make a referral and has already started looking at Orange's 2011 campaign, according to a former aide. But more importantly, Orange is bragging at a time when he should be showing some contrition.
Why contrition? Because there's an extremely large possibility that his 2011 campaign benefited from illegal campaign contributions. This is not news, but allow LL to lay out key three facts. Fact 1: When Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty this summer to giving $44,000 in straw donations to Mayor Vince Gray's campaign, she said in court that the friends and family members whose names were used as part of the straw donor scheme did not have the resources to have given the Gray campaign $2,000 donations on their own. Fact 2: U.S. Attorney Ron Machen says Harris was part of straw donor schemes in multiple local elections. Fact 3: Some of same friends and family members of Harris who are listed as giving $2,000 to the Gray campaign in 2010 gave $1,000 to the Orange campaign in early 2011.
That's a pretty strong case right there that Orange's campaign benefited from illegal straw donations without even getting into the murky details of the multiple money orders tied to the alleged moneyman behind Harris' straw donors, Jeff Thompson. Orange himself called those money orders "suspicious," as would anyone with half a brain who bothered to scrutinize them. (For an example of why some Thompson-related money orders are suspicious, read this post.) OCF didn't bother to investigate the source of the money behind the money orders. Instead, it noted that Orange "responded in a notarized statement that he at no time did he suspect or have reason to suspect any improprieties in the campaign fundraising process for the Orange At-large campaign."
That's been Orange's line all along: if there was hanky panky going on with the tens of thousands of dollars tied to Thompson flowing into the campaign, Orange—a certified accountant—didn't know anything about it.
The rest of the city's local pols are singing a similar tune, but none of them (save for, perhaps, the mayor) benefited from Thompson's alleged largesse as much as Orange did. And that's not really something to brag about.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery