“This is probably why Harry Reid’s been going after the Kochs so much,” muses Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds as he delivers news of top Democrat money man Jeffrey Thompson’s guilty plea for campaign finance violations. It sure does sound like a gigantic case of projection, which has always been a major component of Democrat psychology – they love to cast their own sins at their enemies.
If you don’t spend any time in the left-wing fever swamps, you might be surprised at how large the demonic Koch Brothers loom in their mythology, and probably thought it was a bit odd for Senate Majority Leader Reid to rail against these private citizens from the Senate floor. Were you taken aback to learn that the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body would be used for purposes higher than partisan primal scream therapy, in which the controlling party shrieks insults at law-abiding Americans who have the nerve to participate in our national political discussion? One reason for Reid’s conduct is that hurling his slander from the Senate floor immunizes him against legal retaliation. Another might be that he knew the Thompson story was brewing, and wanted to ratchet up the Koch hatred to cushion its impact.
Here, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, we have a Democrat-supporting fat cat who is what they like to accuse the Koch Brothers of being:
A major Democratic donor pleaded guilty on Monday to funneling millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations to federal and local politicians, including an unnamed 2008 presidential candidate believed to be Hillary Clinton.
District of Columbia businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who federal prosecutors say financed a “shadow campaign” for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in 2010, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.
Thompson claimed some of the candidates, including Gray, were aware of the illegal fundraising.
According to prosecutors, Gray decided to invent a phony name for Thompson, “Uncle Earl,” to protect his identity. It evidently didn’t work. Gray’s people deny that he had any knowledge of Thompson’s illegal activities… which would make his use of the pseudonym more than a little odd, wouldn’t it? Is Gray really going to make the case that he didn’t notice almost half a million dollars pouring into his campaign? Is Hillary Clinton going to try the same “Vote For Me – I’m Oblivious!” strategy in 2016?
Gray’s campaign objected to the prosecutors’ focus on the D.C. mayor, and said Thompson’s claims that Gray knew about the scheme are not believable.
“We’re talking about millions of dollars [Thompson allegedly distributed] to subvert democracy, including a presidential election, an historic presidential election,” Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies told the Washington Free Beacon. “It’s dumbfounding… I think he should spend a decade or more in prison.”
“The message to people who seek to skew the outcome of a presidential election is ‘eh, if we catch you you’ll get six months in jail,’” Thies added. “It’s a frightening message.”
Actually, I think the current message would be more like, “If you seek to skew the outcome of a presidential election without going to jail, use the IRS.”
Today’s developments present an immediate crisis for Gray, who’s going into a fairly crowded primary in a couple of weeks as he seeks re-election to the mayor’s office. Fox News finds the residents of D.C. holding their breath and waiting to learn if prosecutors decide to file charges against Gray. Their public statements certainly make him sound indictable, but they might lack the evidence to take the case any further.
More details from Fox about the activities Gray was allegedly involved in:
[Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Atkinson] said Gray personally requested the funds from Thompson, who pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. Atkinson said that Gray presented Thompson with a one-page budget for $425,000 and asked him to “pay for a get-out-the-vote campaign,” to which Thompson agreed.
Gray has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing in the 2010 campaign. Robert Bennett, Gray’s lawyer, said Monday the mayor continued to maintain his innocence, calling the claims mere “allegations.”
“The mayor’s position on that is that it is absolutely not true,” Bennett said. “That has not changed one bit.”
Thompson in pleading guilty reportedly admitted to channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign operation for somebody identified in court papers as “Mayoral Candidate A,” in the 2010 mayoral race in the District.
I would surmise that much of Gray’s fate will hang on whether prosecutors can get their hands on a copy of that “one-page budget for $425,000.” If I might indulge in a bit of further speculation, I doubt they currently have the paper in their possession, or they would have charged him already – with a primary only weeks away, they have every reason to move quickly. Especially since another of the candidates, Vincent Orange, has a bit of history with Thompson:
According to the document, Thompson, the former owner of a well-connected accounting firm, funded illicit campaign activity for Clinton, Gray and seven other candidates for local office in the district. All told, the efforts were valued at more than $2 million.
Prosecutors also said Thompson exceeded contribution limits by using straw donors and funneling money from his corporation through intermediaries. Thompson contributed more than $500,000 to local candidates and more than $250,000 to federal candidates and political-action committees over a six-year period, according to the 10-page document.
Thompson, 58, had long been suspected of giving money to Gray’s 2010 campaign to fund get-out-the vote and other efforts, and the document put the value of the shadow campaign at $668,000. He was also charged with pouring $608,750 into Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. The efforts to help Clinton were detailed in a previous case against a Thompson associate.
The document details shadow campaigns for eight candidates for office in the district, with a total value of nearly $1.5 million. The most recent race Thompson sought to influence, the document shows, was a race for an at-large City Council seat in 2011, which Democrat Vincent Orange won with support from Thompson’s network of donors. Orange, who has acknowledged handing over documents related to his 2011 campaign to federal investigators, is also running for mayor this year. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment but also has denied wrongdoing.
Thompson also ran a $278,000 shadow effort for a mayoral candidate in 2006, the document shows. Adrian Fenty defeated Linda Cropp in that year’s mayoral primary, and Cropp received contributions that year from Thompson and his associates.
Prosecutors are reportedly also investigating what might have been a quid pro quo for Thompson’s shady campaign support, as detailed by the Washington Post:
After the election, prosecutors said, Thompson gave a $10,000 check to Gray’s “close family member” to settle debts with campaign workers. At Gray’s request, Thompson also gave $10,000 to fund a unnamed union election campaign.
Later, after Gray was inaugurated, Thompson gave $40,000 to the mayor’s “close personal friend” in part to finance home improvements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Atkinson said.
Subsequently, prosecutors said, Thompson appealed to Gray, through an associate, Jeanne Clarke Harris, to “expedite” a pending settlement with the city involving his firm, D.C. Chartered Health Plan.
When asked in court whether Harris had talked to the mayor, Thompson said, “Based on what Miss Harris told me, yes.”
Thompson soon learned that the District government was “resolving the matter,” according to his plea agreement.
Investigators have been looking at the city’s decision to pay Thompson’s health-care company $7.5 million to settle a dispute over reimbursements that had begun during the Fenty administration. Investigators have explored what role, if any, Gray and his deputies played in the 2011 deal.
The mayor has said that Thompson never asked him for any favors, and city officials have defended the Chartered settlement as aboveboard and equitable.
Of course, whatever prosecutors decide to do next, Gray will likely be tried in the court of public opinion, where the requirements for evidence are much more flexible. An interesting detail from the Washington Post: prosecutors only named Gray in court as their suspect for “Mayoral Candidate A” because the judge insisted on it. No doubt observers familiar with the case would have connected the dots on their own, but it’s significant that Gray’s name was dropped in the courtroom.
Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post sees today’s revelations as a reset button for the mayor race, where Gray previous held a significant lead over his seven Democrat challengers, with good approval ratings from his previous term in office. His opponents pounced; the specter of the disgraced Marion Barry was raised; and a new independent candidacy was declared for the general election.
But unless prosecutors get serious about indicting Gray, it’s probably a bit much to declare the mayoral race shaken to its core. This is D.C., after all. It has a very high threshold for permanent disgrace. Just ask City Councilman Marion Barry, last heard complaining about traffic jams caused by presidential motorcades.