Washington D.C. businessman charged in mayoral campaign probe

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 10, 2014 2:41 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading District of Columbia businessman was charged on Monday in a campaign finance conspiracy that has tarnished the U.S. capital's Democratic mayor and overshadowed his bid for a second term.

The charges against Jeffrey Thompson, once a major government contractor, are a much-anticipated development in a federal investigation that began with an examination of Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign and then expanded.

Thompson is accused of conspiring to violate federal and local campaign finance laws and of submitting false reports to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a 10-page charging document. Thompson was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court later Monday.

The filing for Thompson, who did hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the city through his healthcare company, was labeled "information" in the court docket, a title typically used when a plea agreement has been reached.

It said that, through his businesses, Thompson funneled about $669,000 in unreported funds to an unnamed candidate for mayor and the candidate's political action committee from May to September 2010.

Federal prosecutors have been looking into what they have called a "shadow campaign" organized to assist Gray's 2010 bid. Gray has denied wrongdoing but apologized to city residents in January.

Several people affiliated with Gray's campaign or Thompson have pleaded guilty in federal court in the last two years.

The filing said that Thompson illegally channeled more than $1 million to city and federal candidates from 2006 to 2012.

He also used his companies to channel about $600,000 to pay for campaign services for an unnamed presidential candidate from February to May 2008, the charging document said.

The Washington Post reported in September that the disbursement was an independent get-out-the-vote effort for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gray, who has presided over an economic boom while in office, leads polls heading into the crowded April 1 Democratic primary. The winner of that contest is favored to win the general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

A Washington Post poll in January showed that Gray had 24 percent support, but 43 percent of those polled said the federal investigation was a major factor in this year's election.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)