Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, an accounting firm whose chairman and CEO is at the center of a campaign corruption probe in D.C. may have exceeded campaign contribution limits in Maryland with a gift to the 2010 re-election campaign of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Businesses can give money to political candidates legally in Maryland, but are subject to a $10,000-per-election-cycle limit. Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, the site of an apparent federal law enforcement raid targeted at Jeffrey E. Thompson, may have run afoul of Maryland campaign finance law.
Between 2007 and 2009, the firm gave Maryland politicians running for office about $11,500, according to Maryland Campaign Finance. Sheila Dixon, the Baltimore mayor who resigned as part of a plea agreement over a corruption scandal in 2010, returned $500 of that in 2007 and another $500 after she left office. Even subtracting those returned contributions, however, the firm appears to have doled out a little too much -- $500, to be exact -- to Maryland politicians.
Because Maryland operates on a "last in, first out" rule for returning excess campaign donations, the person in line to return the impermissible money would be O'Malley.
(Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates also gave the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee $2,000 in 2008 -- but that donation doesn't count against the firm's overall limit under state law because it was for "administrative" purposes, Maryland Campaign Finance records show.)
The governor's official spokesperson, Raquel Gillory, declined to comment, stating that it was a campaign matter. O'Malley's fundraiser, Colleen Martin-Lauer, did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment. Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates also did not respond to a request for comment.
The amount in question, $500, is small compared to the millions O'Malley raised in his race. But O'Malley and other prominent Maryland politicians also have received tens of thousands of dollars from other businesses and individuals associated with Thompson. The Washington City Paper said the Thompson "network" gave O'Malley $72,000 on a single day in September 2010, during the last few days of his re-election race.
If any of the corporations that gave Maryland politicians campaign donations during the 2010 cycle were set up solely to funnel fundraising cash, they would have violated state law. "You can't fraudulently set up an LLC to circumvent campaign finance rules and regulations," said Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division at the Maryland State Board of Elections.
One contribution on Sept. 22, 2010 that stands out: $4,000 given to O'Malley by the transportation company RapidTrans, Inc., which listed Jeffrey Thompson as its president in 2007, according to the Washington Times. The paper reported on Wednesday that RapidTrans' "corporate status would have been deemed revoked at the end of 2009" -- but it kept giving politicians money nonetheless.
DeMarinis said an expired corporate status wouldn't necessarily preclude a business from making contributions as long as that lapse could be fixed. "When the corporation completely ceases to exist, then I would say they can no longer use that as a vehicle to make contributions," DeMarinis said.
Also on Thursday, NBC4 reported that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray himself handled up to $100,000 linked to Thompson.