Fundraiser no stranger to fi­nance in­quiries

Md. in­ves­ti­gated D.C. firm of­fi­cial

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY JIM MCELHATTON

AN­NAPO­LIS | A key fig­ure in the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into wide­spread cam­paign ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in Washington has twice faced misdemeanor crim­i­nal charges over elec­tion-law com­plaints in Mary­land, records show.

Ralph B. Bazilio, a part­ner at a prom­i­nent Washington ac­count­ing firm raided last month by fed­eral agents, was ac­cused of fail­ing to file cam­paign fi­nance dis­clo­sures in 2006 for a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee called BIZPAC, ac­cord­ing to records on file with the Dis­trict Court for Anne Arun­del County.

The case was dropped af­ter the com­mit­tee paid thou­sands of dol­lars in fines and filed up-to-date cam­paign dis­clo­sures. It has since shut down.

The Of­fice of the Mary­land State Pros­e­cu­tor filed an ear­lier cam­paign fi­nance case against Mr. Bazilio, but the file was not avail­able for in­spec­tion Thurs­day.

Since the March raid, Mr. Bazilio’s name largely has been over­shad­owed by that of his long­time ac­count­ing part­ner, Jef­frey E. Thompson, who founded Thompson Cobb Bazilio & As­so­ciates and who sep­a­rately owns D.C. Char­tered Health Plan, the city’s big­gest Med­i­caid contractor.

While au­thor­i­ties are look­ing into Mr. Thompson’s po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, Mr. Bazilio is a prodi­gious po­lit­i­cal donor in his own right. Like Mr. Thompson, he, too, was named in the fed­eral sub­poena sent to sev­eral D.C. law­mak­ers seek­ing records about po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Mr. Bazilio, his wife and the ac­count­ing firm that bears his name have do­nated more than $45,000 over the years to politi­cians in Mary­land, where Thompson Cobb Bazilio & As­so­ciates has won county and state au­dit­ing con­tracts. He also served on the tran­si­tion team for Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker III.

Ac­cord­ing to court records, Mr. Bazilio’s most re­cent le­gal prob­lems in Mary­land be­gan in late 2006 when the Mary­land State Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice charged him with fail­ure to file 2006 cam­paign fi­nance forms for BIZPAC. Mr. Bazilio served as its trea­surer.

A crim­i­nal sum­mons is­sued in the case noted that an of­fi­cer tried to serve the com­plaint on Mr. Bazilio but was un­able to reach him. Court records list a Washington phone num­ber that is the same as the one for Mr. Bazilio’s of­fice in Washington, but phone and email mes­sages left Thurs­day were not re­turned.

How­ever, he told the Washington In­former news­pa­per this month that the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion had noth­ing to do with the ac­count­ing firm’s clients.

The crim­i­nal charges against Mr. Bazilio were dropped af­ter the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee paid nearly $4,000 in late fees and filed timely re­ports be­fore shut­ting down in 2007.

Jared De­mar­nis, di­rec­tor of the can­di­dacy and cam­paign fi­nance di­vi­sion

The whole at­ti­tude’s changed, the way peo­ple go out.”

But Mr. Gra­ham pointed to an equal num­ber of con­cerns, cit­ing com­plaints of singing, shout­ing, fights, car doors slam­ming and public uri­na­tion af­ter 3 a.m. An ex­ten­sion to 4 a.m. may just de­lay the may­hem be­cause some bar pa­trons have a psy­cho­log­i­cal at­tach­ment to last call, he said.

He is also wor­ried about trans­porta­tion from the bar scene, not­ing that Metro ends ser­vice an hour be­fore the bars let out and taxi ser­vice may not be able to take up the slack.

Plus, he asked, shouldn’t res­i­dents ex­pect some peace and quiet be­fore dawn?

“I think most peo­ple are not wan­der­ing the streets at 3 a.m.,” Mr. Gra­ham said.

For their part, mem­bers of the night­club in­dus­try say noise is to be ex­pected near pop­u­lar bars.

“We have a 24-hour city, we have a 24-hour world,” Skip Coburn, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the D.C. Nightlife As­so­ci­a­tion, said.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Mar­ion Barry, Ward 8 Demo­crat, said he sup­ports the pro­posal. In re­marks from the dais, he em­pha­sized the size and im­por­tance of the city’s im­mense hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

“I don’t see any­thing wrong with it, my­self,” he said.

Mr. Coburn said the ex­tended hours should be con­sid­ered on a case-by-case ba­sis, cit­ing unique zon­ing and com­mu­nity con­cerns. City reg­u­la­tors eval­u­ate spe­cial re­quests from in­di­vid­ual bars all the time and should be able to han­dle it, he said.

Nonethe­less, long-stand­ing agree­ments with com­mu­nity groups could pro­hibit many own­ers from ex­tend­ing their hours. Vol­un­tary agree­ments be­tween bars and neigh­bor­hood groups that man­date spec­i­fied clos­ing hours would stay in place.

Some of those agree­ments mir­ror the clos­ing time listed by law and could take on “new sig­nif­i­cance” un­der the bud­get plan, Mr. Gra­ham noted.

Night­clubs Mr. Karim dryly re­ferred to the pacts as “a noose around our necks.”

“There’s noth­ing vol­un­tary about it,” he said.

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