Trans­porta­tion firm sus­pected of tak­ing in­spec­tors for a ride

Rapid Trans gives to D.C. politi­cians

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

The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into wide­spread D.C. cam­paign-fi­nance ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties has moved be­yond law­mak­ers and prom­i­nent donors to in­clude a lit­tle-known trans­porta­tion com­pany that doesn’t seem to drive many pas­sen­gers but has de­liv­ered cam­paign cash to city politi­cians.

One of the prin­ci­pals for Rapid Trans Ser­vices, Au­drey Al­bert, de­clined to com­ment when con­tacted at her Mary­land apart­ment Fri­day, say­ing, “I’ve got noth­ing to do with that.” How­ever, she con­firmed re­ceiv­ing a sub­poena when asked about the on­go­ing cam­paign-fi­nance probe and re­ferred ques­tions to an at­tor­ney who did not re­turn a mes­sage Fri­day.

The other name on Rapid Trans Ser­vices’ in­cor­po­ra­tion pa­pers is Jeanne Clarke Har­ris. She, too, has de­clined to com­ment af­ter re­ports of a fed­eral raid on her home and of­fice on the same day fed­eral agents searched the of­fices and home this month of prom­i­nent D.C. contractor Jef­frey E. Thompson.

Mr. Thompson and his com­pa­nies have been pro­lific sources of cam­paign money for city politi­cians over the past decade while his health care

plan, D.C. Char­tered Health, won hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in busi­ness from the Dis­trict. The Thompson-owned com­pany pro­vides man­aged-care ser­vices to city Med­i­caid pa­tients as well as other low-in­come res­i­dents en­rolled in the city­funded D.C. Health­care Al­liance plan. He did not re­turn phone mes­sages left at his of­fice last week.

Since the raid, city politi­cians have been scram­bling to scour con­tri­bu­tions from Mr. Thompson and his busi­nesses, with sev­eral law­mak­ers re­ceiv­ing sub­poe­nas and oth­ers de­clin­ing to say. Also un­der scru­tiny are do­na­tions from en­ti­ties that have no clear ties to Mr. Thompson but ap­pear to be part of the same fundrais­ing net­work based on the pat­tern of giv­ing.

For ex­am­ple, Mr. Thompson’s name doesn’t show up on Rapid Trans Ser­vices’ busi­ness fil­ings with the D.C. gov­ern­ment, but the com­pany started about the same time that a sim­i­larly named com­pany he owned called Rapid­trans Inc. vol­un­tar­ily sur­ren­dered its au­thor­ity to trans­port pas­sen­gers in 2008. While Rapid­trans Inc. later had its cor­po­ra­tion sta­tus re­voked for fail­ure to meet fil­ing re­quire­ments, the Thompson-owned com­pany con­tin­ued do­nat­ing to city politi­cians.

So, too, did Rapid Trans Ser­vices, which is not li­censed by the Washington Met­ro­pol­i­tan Area Tran­sit Com­mis­sion to carry pas­sen­gers. Both Rapid Trans Ser­vices and Rapid­trans have do­nated to city politi­cians for the max­i­mum amount, of­ten on the same day as other con­tri­bu­tions from Mr. Thompson and his busi­nesses, em­ploy­ees or as­so­ciates.

There is no law against like­minded com­pa­nies and peo­ple giv­ing max­i­mum cam­paign do­na­tions to the same can­di­dates on the same day. In­deed, that hap­pens al­most ev­ery day in Washington as lob­by­ists host bigticket fundrais­ers and bun­dle con­tri­bu­tions for mem­bers of Congress in of­fices, town houses and bars across the Dis­trict.

But con­tri­bu­tions linked to Mr. Thompson raise ques­tions for other rea­sons. For in­stance, D.C. law lim­its com­pa­nies and their sub­sidiaries to a sin­gle con­tri­bu­tion limit when giv­ing to a can­di­date dur­ing an elec­tion cy­cle. But cam­paign fil­ings show nu­mer­ous in­stances in which Mr. Thompson’s hold­ing com­pany, D.C. Health­care Sys­tems, and its busi­ness af­fil­i­ates, in­clud­ing D.C. Char­tered Health Plan and Rapid­trans Inc., gave sep­a­rate checks each for the max­i­mum do­na­tion on the same day to politi­cians.

On Aug. 9, 2010, for in­stance, D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Kwame R. Brown re­ceived sep­a­rate $1,500 do­na­tions — the max­i­mum al­lowed for a coun­cil chair­man’s race — from both Rapid­trans Inc. and D.C. Health­care Sys­tems. Max­i­mum do­na­tions came in on the same day from Rapid Trans Ser­vices, as well as from Ms. Al­bert, Ms. Har­ris, Mr. Thompson and his ac­count­ing firm, Thompson Cobb Bazilio & As­so­ciates.

An­other big con­trib­u­tor that day to Mr. Brown was Belle In­ter­na­tional, which was founded by Ms. Har­ris and H. Mar­rel Foushee, who was a public works of­fi­cial in the Mar­ion Barry ad­min­is­tra­tion. He now runs a tax and fi­nan­cial-man­age­ment com­pany on New York Av­enue in North­west Washington. He de­clined to com­ment when reached at his of­fice Fri­day.

Ms. Har­ris and the three busi­nesses she helped in­cor­po­rate — Rapid Trans Ser­vices, De­tails In­ter­na­tional and Belle In­ter­na­tional — have been re­li­able sources of cam­paign cash for city politi­cians over the years, ac­cord­ing to cam­paign fil­ings. The Washington Post first re­ported the raid on Ms. Har­ris’ home and of­fice.

In an­other ex­am­ple — but hardly the only one in­volv­ing city politi­cians — of how con­tri­bu­tions from the Har­ris-tied com­pa­nies aligned with Mr. Thompson’s sup­port, D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Phil Men­del­son re­ceived max­i­mum $1,000 do­na­tions on Sept. 13, 2010, from De­tails In­ter­na­tional, Belle In­ter­na­tional and Rapid Trans Ser­vices. On the same day, he also re­ceived max­i­mum $1,000 do­na­tions from Mr. Thompson, D.C. Health­care Sys­tems and Rapid­trans Inc.

When asked about do­na­tions he has re­ceived as a re­sult of Mr. Thompson’s fundrais­ing, Mr. Men­del­son said in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view that he trusts donors to know the law when they con­trib­ute and noted that city cam­paign­fi­nance reg­u­la­tors had not alerted him about any prob­lems con­cern­ing do­na­tions.

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