WASHINGTON -- Local elections officials in the District of Columbia are conducting a "random audit" of last year's special election campaign of D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who admitted this week that some money orders for donations from that race look "suspicious and questionable."
The move by the Office of Campaign Finance comes as federal prosecutors have been handing down subpoenas to several councilmembers who have received campaign donations from Jeffrey Thompson, a big local campaign donor who also controls the city's largest Medicaid-managed care firm.
Earlier this month, federal authorities raided Thompson's home and the home and office of a close associate, though no charges were filed at the time.
WRC-TV/NBC4, which broke the news of the subpoenas on Tuesday, reported that federal prosecutors are seeking documents and other information related to Thompson's campaign donations dating back to 2003.
The office of the U.S. attorney has been mum as it has been carrying out its investigation.
Orange, who previously represented Ward 5, is one of the councilmembers who benefited from Thompson's donations.WAMU-FM reported earlier this month:
Over a two-day period last March, Orange received 26 money orders as contributions to his campaign fund, and each one was worth the maximum amount of $1,000. Money orders are relatively rare in campaign finance reports. Rarer still was how many of the donations came from way outside the District, from areas including Georgia and California -- all in a 48-hour period.
As local officials are examining Orange's campaign, what exactly are are the feds looking for? That is unclear, but as WRC-TV/NBC4's Tom Sherwood tweeted on Tuesday, the U.S. attorney's probe is far reaching:
A review of campaign records shows that Thompson, his companies, employees at his companies, companies that do business with companies he owns, and others with some sort of link to Thompson have given about $630,000 in direct campaign contributions over the last 10 years. Add in contributions from Thompson and his companies to political action committees and elected officials’ constituent services funds, and the total shoots past $730,000.
That money puts Thompson in a rarified world of the District’s top political donors, with a good chance of being the top individual money man.
The Thompson fundraising network, according to Washington City Paper's review of records, also "gave almost $80,000 to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's re-election campaign in a single day."
In the meantime, the John A. Wilson Building, the seat of the D.C. government, is buzzing about the latest developments in the ongoing campaign finance scandal. But it's not entirely clear how many councilmembers received subpoenas.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) confirmed that he received one, according to WTTG-TV/Fox 5's Matt Ackland, adding that Evans said he's never been given a money order and wouldn't accept one as a donation.
The office of Mary Cheh sent out a tweet confirming that the Ward 3 Democrat has not received a subpoena and that "[a]nyone who says or suggests differently is wrong."
Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), in an interview on WTTG-TV/Fox 5 said that he did not receive a subpoena and did not expect to receive one.
Former Mayor Marion Barry (D), who represents Ward 8, would not answer a question about the subpoenas when asked by reporters.
At a Ward 4 candidate forum on Tuesday night, Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) refused to confirm whether she had received a subpoena, according to Washington City Paper's Michael Schaffer, who noted that Bowser said that those who are curious should ask the U.S. attorney's office.
The Jeffrey Thompson investigation comes amid two federal inquiries into campaign finance matters related to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D).