D.C. Council chair race missing major money man

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The run-up to the Nov. 6 special election for D.C. Council chairman will include the typical public rhythms of a District campaign: parades, campaigning outside Metro stations and legions of volunteers knocking on doors.

But one of the city's quietly powerful political rhythms -- the contributions of Jeffrey Thompson -- will almost certainly be absent.

For years, donations from Thompson and an extensive network of family members, friends, colleagues and an array of companies helped to lubricate the campaign operations of most city politicians.

For sale
Jeffrey Thompson's home in Crestwood is on the market. The four-bedroom home, which federal agents searched in March, was listed for nearly $1.2 million.

Thompson's ties were deep: Only two sitting members of the D.C. Council haven't accepted donations from Thompson or his associates. He gave generously to Mayor Vincent Gray, but at times supported former Mayor Adrian Fenty, Gray's political rival.

"He was a behemoth among political donors in the city," said Chuck Thies, a political consultant. "Certainly any incumbent who needed money could go to him."

But in March, Thompson quickly evolved into political poison after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided his home and offices, hauling away more than 60 boxes of documents and 23 million pages of electronic records. His attorney, Brendan Sullivan, has repeatedly declined to comment, and Thompson has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Thompson and his money, however, have all but disappeared from District politics.

Two of his top past beneficiaries, though, are among the most likely to run for the post. Interim Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who has already said he will enter the race, and at-large Councilman Vincent Orange, who has offered different answers to reporters about whether he'll seek the job, both accepted thousands of dollars from Thompson's network through the years. SClBTom Lindenfeld, a D.C. political consultant, predicted the lack of Thompson-linked money would impact Orange more than Mendelson, who will enjoy the advantage of incumbency and historically took far less in Thompson contributions.

"I don't think it will affect him very much because he's got a lot of options," Lindenfeld said of Mendelson. "Orange has really relied on Jeff Thompson in a much more dramatic way for the bulk of his campaign fundraising, and he would be more affected."

Mendelson and Orange did not respond to requests for comment.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner