De­funct firm still do­nat­ing to D.C. politi­cians

Two con­trib­u­tors harder to lo­cate

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY JIM MCELHATTON

Rapid­trans Inc., a med­i­cal trans­porta­tion com­pany that gave up its li­cense to drive pas­sen­gers in 2008 and later lost its in­cor­po­ra­tion sta­tus, con­tin­ues to de­liver one thing: cam­paign cash to D.C. politi­cians.

The com­pany — which in 2007 listed as its pres­i­dent Jef­frey E. Thompson, the D.C. power bro­ker whose of­fices and home were raided by fed­eral agents ear­lier this month — has given thou­sands of dol­lars to city politi­cians since 2010, with do­na­tions fre­quently com­ing on the same day as max­i­mum con­tri­bu­tions from Mr. Thompson, his busi­ness in­ter­ests or as­so­ciates.

Mr. Thompson owns an in­sur­ance plan that does hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in busi­ness with the D.C. gov-

ern­ment as well as an ac­count­ing firm that has won city con­tracts.

The back­grounds of other en­ti­ties that have given to city politi­cians are harder to fig­ure, two of which seem­ingly don’t ex­ist any­where but on the pa­per­work filed by Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray and for­mer D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Harry Thomas Jr. Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty in a theft case un­re­lated to the do­na­tions and is await­ing sen­tenc­ing.

In less than a week in the fall of 2010, two com­pa­nies — Al­ban Strate­gies and Westover Mar­ket­ing — do­nated the max­i­mum amount al­lowed by law to both Mr. Gray and Mr. Thomas. But gov­ern­ment records show no en­tity named Al­ban Strate­gies or Westover Mar­ket­ing as hav­ing been in­cor­po­rated in Washington or Virginia, the lo­ca­tions for the com­pa­nies pro­vided on cam­paign records.

“This raises red flags ga­lore,” Craig Hol­man, leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive for D.c.-based Public Cit­i­zen, said of the Rapid­trans do­na­tions. “This has ev­ery ap­pear­ance of be­ing a clas­sic pay-to-play scheme.”

Phone mes­sages left for Mr. Thompson at his ac­count­ing of­fice, D.c.-based Thompson Cobb Bazilio & As­so­ciates, were not re­turned this week or last.

Rapid­trans last filed a bian­nual re­port with the city gov­ern­ment in 2007, but it never filed an­other two-year re­port, and so its cor­po­rate sta­tus would have been deemed re­voked at the end of 2009, records show.

Ac­cord­ing to the Washington Met­ro­pol­i­tan Area Tran­sit Com­mis­sion, the com­pany vol­un­tar­ily sur­ren­dered its op­er­at­ing au­thor­ity in Au­gust 2008.

Still, Rapid­trans re­mained a re­li­able source of cam­paign funds for city law­mak­ers.

On Oct. 29, 2010, for in­stance, Rapid­trans gave $2,000 to Mr. Gray. The cam­paign also re­ceived $2,000 checks that day from Al­ban Strate­gies and Westover Mar­ket­ing.

In cam­paign dis­clo­sures, the Gray cam­paign listed an ad­dress for Westover at an of­fice suite on the 2100 block of Co­op­er­a­tive Way in Re­ston. That’s the home of the Al­ban In­sti­tute, a non­profit group that works with churches.

Newer com­pany

and coun­cil mem­bers Jim Gra­ham, Ward 1 Demo­crat, and Phil Men­del­son and Vin­cent B. Orange, both at-large Democrats.

While Rapid­trans isn’t in good busi­ness stand­ing any­more, a com­pany called Rapid Trans Ser­vices Inc. be­gan in 2008. It also has do­nated lots of money to city politi­cians.

The com­pany doesn’t list Mr. Thompson as one of its of­fi­cers, show­ing in­stead Jeanne Clark Har­ris, whose firm did work for Mr. Gray’s may­oral cam­paign. Her home and of­fice were raided by the FBI ear­lier this month on the same day Mr. Thompson’s home and of­fice were searched, The Washington Post has re­ported.

Ms. Har­ris de­clined to com­ment Tues­day and re­ferred mes­sages to an at­tor­ney, who did not re­turn phone mes­sages.

In some cases, Rapid Trans Ser­vices gave do­na­tions to law­mak­ers on the same day as Rapid­trans Inc., as well as other en­ti­ties tied to both Mr. Thompson and Ms. Har­ris.

Ms. Har­ris also ap­pears on cor­po­rate fil­ings for an­other com­pany called Belle In­ter­na­tional, which has given more than $12,000 to city law­mak­ers since 2008. She also has public re­la­tions firm, De­tails In­ter­na­tional, which has do­nated in nu­mer­ous D.C. cam­paigns.

The max­i­mum al­lowed

Belle In­ter­na­tional do­nated $1,500 to Mr. Brown’s cam­paign on June 11, 2010, the same day that Rapid Trans Ser­vices and De­tails In­ter­na­tional each gave sep­a­rate $1,500 do­na­tions. All three were the max­i­mum al­lowed for a D.C. Coun­cil chair­man’s race.

Sim­i­larly, Mr. Gra­ham re­ceived $500 in do­na­tions from both Belle and Rapid Trans Inc. on the same day in 2010, the max­i­mum do­na­tion in a ward race.

Mr. Gra­ham said Wed­nes­day that the do­na­tion he re­ceived from Rapid­trans was paid through a check and that he re­ceived no money or­ders from Mr. Thompson or any en­ti­ties tied to him. He said be­cause the Rapid­Trans do­na­tion came in the form of a check, he had no rea­son to be­lieve the com­pany wouldn’t be in good busi­ness stand­ing.

Mr. Orange, mean­while, is un­der scru­tiny af­ter dis­clos­ing that his cam­paign had re­ceived more than two dozen money or­ders to his cam­paign. His of­fice did not re­turn a phone mes­sage Wed­nes­day.

D.C. law al­lows com­pa­nies to con­trib­ute to D.C. po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns, but lim­its a par­ent com­pany and its sub­sidiaries to a sin­gle cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion limit.

The Washington Times re­ported Mon­day that in­sur­ance fil­ings from 2005 to 2009 show that Rapid­trans Inc., D.C. Char­tered Health Plan and the Char­tered Fam­ily Health Plan are part of the same cor­po­rate struc­ture un­der Mr. Thompson’s hold­ing com­pany, D.C. Health­care Sys­tems.

How­ever, cam­paign fil­ings show more than a dozen po­lit­i­cal races over the years in which D.C. Health­care Sys­tems and one or more of its af­fil­i­ates sep­a­rately gave max­i­mum do­na­tions to D.C. politi­cians on the same day.

In a state­ment to The Times, a spokesman for the Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance Of­fice said that “any ac­tive prin­ci­pal cam­paign com­mit­tee of a can­di­date is sub­ject to an on­go­ing re­view process.”

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