Suspicious Money Orders Linked to Vincent Orange

Trail of money orders tying Jeff Thompson to Orange

By WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
|  Monday, Mar 5, 2012  |  Updated 9:12 PM EDT
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Suspicious Money Orders Linked to Orange

Council member Vincent Orange

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Federal authorities raided the offices of Jeffrey Thompson, one of the District's most prolific political donors, on Friday. The raids appear to be connected to an ongoing investigation into city corruption.

Thompson's fundraising prowess in the District is well known, but a review of campaign finance records reveals another connection: a trail of money orders tying Thompson to Council member Vincent Orange and potentially other city leaders.

Over a two-day period last March, Council member Orange received 26 money orders, and each one was worth the maximum amount of $1,000. Money orders are relatively rare in campaign finance reports, rarer still was how many of the donations came from way outside the District, including Georgia and California -- and all in a 48-hour period.

The money orders have become fodder for Orange's opponents in his upcoming primary who have called on Orange to provide more information on what one opponent labeled "questionable money orders."

A WAMU review of these donations finds many of them can be traced back to Thompson and his longtime associate Jeanne Harris. Neither name appears in the money orders. Instead, outside companies and family members from as far away as Georgia are listed as contributors.

For example, records show at least four of the money orders are from relatives of Harris, such as Elzatah Belle, who was her mother. Another four are from firms that appear to be connected, based on the listed address, to Thompson.

Attempts to reach Thompson and Harris were not successful. Federal authorities have not said why they raided the offices, and neither has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Orange defended the contributions, noting how many other politicians have received money from Thompson, but when asked if he would make copies of the money orders publicly available, Orange declined to answer as he drove off in his car.

Now, campaign finance records show that essentially this same cast of contributors that gave money to Orange last March also donated to the Vincent Gray for Mayor campaign, which is under investigation by federal authorities.

Complete story at wamu.org

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