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Virgin Islands Delegate Got Money From DC Donor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Virgin Islands' delegate to Congress has benefited from the largesse of prominent government contractor Jeffrey Thompson, whose contributions to local elected officials in the nation's capital have drawn the attention of federal authorities.

    Delegate Donna Christensen, a Democrat who has faced only token opposition in recent elections, received at least $37,000 from Thompson and his associates in the second quarter of 2011, according to an Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission records. More than half of the money that her campaign has received from individuals during the current election cycle can be linked to Thompson, who also bundled contributions for her in 2008.

    Thompson's offices and home were searched last month by federal authorities investigating campaign finance irregularities in the District of Columbia, including those involving Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign. Thompson and his associates were major contributors to Gray's campaign. The U.S. attorney's office in Washington is looking into money-order contributions received by Gray and other elected city officials. Several elected officials received subpoenas seeking documents detailing any contributions linked to Thompson.

    In response to phone calls and emails to Christensen and her campaign staff, the campaign said in a statement to the AP that Thompson held two fundraisers for Christensen. The more recent event was in February 2011, the statement said.

    “We continue to follow the circumstances involving Mr. Thompson in the media and will take any such action with respect to his contributions as may later prove appropriate,” the statement said. Christensen and campaign officials did not respond to requests for further comment.

    The U.S. attorney's office has declined to comment on the investigation, but people familiar with the probe believe Thompson is suspected of using straw donors to evade contribution limits. The Washington Post has reported that the Gray campaign received money-order contributions from people who say they did not donate to the campaign.

    Thompson, a 57-year-old native of Jamaica, has also been active in national politics. Federal campaign finance records list $204,900 in contributions by Thompson to candidates, parties and political action committees between 1997 and 2011.

    Last May, Thompson made the maximum individual contribution to President Barack Obama's re-election effort, in the form of a $10,000 contribution to the Obama victory fund. Of that, $2,500 went to Obama's primary campaign and $2,500 to his general election bid -- the maximum allowed. The remaining $5,000 went to the Democratic National Committee.

    Thompson's only other contributions this election cycle are $2,300 to Christensen and $500 to Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine.

    Thompson is the owner of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, which has a $322 million contract -- the largest single contract in District government -- to manage health care for Medicaid recipients.

    His accounting firm -- Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates -- has 189 contracts with the federal government, worth $17.1 million. The company has done some business in the Virgin Islands, auditing grant funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Highway Administration. TCBA recently advertised for an accounting position based in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands.

    The contributors to Christensen include Thompson's partners and employees at TCBA, people who've done consulting work for the firm and their spouses and relatives. Among them: Stanley Straughter, chairman of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, and his wife, Rena Straughter. In a brief telephone interview, Stanley Straughter, a former TCBA consultant, declined to discuss the reasons for his or Thompson's contributions to Christensen.

    As of March 31, Christensen had received $123,074 in contributions this election cycle, $69,074 of which came from individuals. At least 54 percent of the individual contributions she's received can be linked to Thompson.

    Most of the contributions from the Thompson donors were made on June 3, 2011, and the donors gave $2,300 apiece. The Christensen campaign said donors pledged the money during the February fundraiser and wrote checks later.

    The donations follow a pattern familiar from district campaign finance records. Thompson and his affiliated donors often give the same amount of money to the same candidates on the same day.

    Another Christensen donor, Darryl Dennis of Silver Spring, Md., gave $1,500 on June 29. He could not conclusively be linked to Thompson, but the few contributions he's made correspond roughly with the Thompson network. Like Thompson, Dennis gave $10,000 to the Obama victory fund last May; he also gave money to Gray. Dennis, who owns a telecommunications firm in Washington, did not return a message seeking comment.

    Thompson's attorney, Brendan Sullivan, has not commented publicly on the investigation and did not respond to an email seeking comment about the Christensen contributions.

    Christensen, 66, a New Jersey native, has served as the Virgin Islands' nonvoting delegate to Congress since 1997. She is the first female physician to be elected to Congress. In 2008, she won a Democratic primary with 79 percent of the vote and was unopposed in the general election. In 2010, she had no primary opponent and was re-elected with 72 percent of the vote.

    The Thompson network has also given to the district's delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton. She received $20,700 from Thompson-affiliated donors on Oct. 27, 2010, and $16,100 from the network on Nov. 1, 2008. She has not received any Thompson-linked donations during the current election cycle.