Here's a story to watch. A prominent Washington, D.C. businessman pleaded guilty Monday to making more than $2 million in illegal contributions to federal and local political campaigns, including the 2010 D.C. mayor's race and Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential run.
Prosecutors say Jeffrey E. Thompson, an accountant and health care entrepreneur, used his businesses to bankroll a secret $400,000-plus get-out-the-vote campaign for then-D.C. Councilman Vincent Gray. Thompson also cut other checks to pay Gray's campaign workers, help fund a union election campaign and underwrite home improvements for a "close personal friend" of the mayor, they alleged.
In all, charging documents say that Thompson spent about $668,800 on campaign materials and services for Gray, who won the mayor's race and is campaigning now for a second term. The Washington Post has a full story on the charges here.
The case vividly illustrates the corrupting power of big money in politics. At the time of the 2010 campaign, a subsidiary of Thompson's health care company had a contract with the city worth $300 million annually to provide health care services to Medicaid patients. Thompson is said to have feared that the reelection of then-Mayor Adrian Fenty would have damaged his business.
After Gray's election, Thompson's firm and the city Department of Health Care Finance settled a billing dispute out of court, with the city paying $7.5 million.
Gray, leading a multi-candidate field in the April 1 Democratic primary, dismissed the charges as "lies." Prosecutors claim that he was aware of and participated in the scheme, agreeing to conceal Thompson's aid by -- in part -- referring to the donor as "Uncle Earl."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics