Loose Lips

Jeff Thompson’s Old Firm Accuses Him of Straw Donor Scheme

If you run into embattled D.C. politics money man Jeff Thompson, give him a hug: He's had a tough week. On Monday, former at-large Councilmember Michael Brown admitted taking illegal campaign donations in 2007 from a businessman who is clearly Thompson. Then, a lawyer for Lee Calhoun, an employee at the accounting firm Thompson used to run, said Calhoun would plead guilty to involvement in a campaign contributions scheme run by the firm's former CEO (i.e., Thompson).

All that's enough to deal with, but Thompson had one more problem in store: Late Friday, Thompson's old firm accused him of running a straw donor scheme.

Bazilio Cobb Associates—known as Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates before Thompson sold his 79 percent stake in the company last July—says that its own internal review revealed that Thompson had been using employees and their family and friends in straw donor schemes for local and federal races over 10 years. According to the firm, employees would donate to candidates and Thompson would pay them back with money from his personal account or the company itself.

Don't blame Bazilio Cobb's employees, though. Apparently they were too busy working to know that straw donation schemes are illegal. "This has been a very difficult time for the Firm, particularly since almost all of its hard-working professionals and staff are not politically active and were not aware of certain federal campaign contribution law requirements," the statement from Bazilio Cobb reads, making LL wonder just what they teach in accounting school these days.

Bazilio Cobb also takes time in its press release to note that none of its success—including nearly $50 million in District government contracts over the 10 years that Thompson allegedly ran his contribution network—came from the campaign donations. "No benefit – no client contract –was sought by or came to the Firm on account of any political contributions," the release reads.

Even if Bazilio Cobb's leaders are the political innocents they make themselves out to be, they have some questions of their own to answer. Specifically, what did the accounting firm do to earn $845,000 from Thompson's now-troubled Chartered Health Plan? The District Medicaid contractor paid that hefty sum to the firm for "file maintenance review," according to a lawsuit filed by the District against Chartered.

In its haste to run away from Thompson, though, Bazilio Cobb does drop this tantalizing nugget: "The Firm is relieved that the cloud it has been under for the past 15 months will lift soon."

How soon is "soon?" We may find out next week, when Bazilio Cobb's Calhoun will likely plead guilty and, according to his attorney, a statement of offense document will spell out more.

  • truth hurts

    Pathetic attempt at damage control. No way all these folks thought it was OK to write campaign contribution checks and have Thompson & company reimburse them.

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