Alleged Shadow Campaign Funder Jeff Thompson Charged With Conspiracy (Updated)
Alleged Vince Gray shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson operated an illegal money network that provided more than $2.3 million in illicit contributions and other help to District and federal political campaigns, including the 2010 and 2006 mayoral races, according to a criminal information filed this morning that charges him with two counts of conspiracy.
That kind of filing almost certainly indicates that Thompson will plead guilty to the charges and cooperate with prosecutors. Thompson will go in front of U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly at 1:30 p.m. today, with a joint press conference on the case with the FBI, the IRS, and the U.S. Attorney's Office scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Thompson is accused of organizing more than $250,000 worth of straw contributions to 13 federal candidates that he passed through his employees, charges that match earlier guilty pleas from former Thompson employees. The information also mentions that Thompson's companies would then disguise the reimbursements to the straw donors as "consultant fees," advances, or bonuses.
Thompson is also accused of spending $608,750 illicitly to back a 2008 presidential candidate, which echoes court documents filed against another Thompson associate who was involved with an illicit effort on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
But the biggest impact from the filing could come in the District's local politics, where Thompson is described as spending more than $1,480,946 on shadow campaign-style efforts and straw donations "in coordination with and in support of" District candidates as far back as 2006.
Thompson allegedly spent $20,000 for a 2007 Ward 4 candidate and $100,000 for an at-large candidate, which would match earlier court documents filed about disgraced former councilmember Michael A. Brown. Thompson also allegedly spent $278,000 on behalf of a 2006 mayoral candidate, $100,000 for another 2010 at-large candidate, $26,000 for a Ward 6 candidate in 2010, $140,000 for a Ward 1 candidate in 2010, and $148,146 for a 2011 at-large candidate.
Thompson also allegedly spent $668,800 in excess contributions and other illicit help in the 2010 race, a claim that is similar to Thompson associate Jeanne Clarke Harris' description of a shadow campaign effort to elect Gray. The information doesn't name Gray or any of the other candidates, and Gray hasn't been charged with any crimes.
Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies points to similar language describing the 2008 primary effort believed to help Clinton and the 2010 mayoral shadow campaign as evidence that Gray didn't know about the alleged crimes.
“We welcome this like the sun rises in the east," Thies says. "Who called for this investigation? Vince Gray. People who break the law must face justice. Well, now Jeff Thompson is going to face justice."
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the filing. Thompson's attorney didn't respond to an immediate request for comment.
Photo courtesy Charles Parsons