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Jeffrey Thompson Charged in DC Shadow Campaign

After three years of an extensive investigation, wealthy businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson has been formally indicted in relation to an illicit “shadow campaign” that funded Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray’s election in 2010 and, according to critics, was crucial in helping Gray unseat then-incumbent Adrian Fenty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Atkinson issued the charge against Jeffery Thompson, a well-known District of Columbia businessman and political fund-raiser. Thompson has entered a guilty plea for his role in conspiring to violate local and federal campaign finance laws when he funded several “under-the-radar activities” for candidates, which include Gray as well as potential presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton .

According to an article in the Washington Post, Atkinson said Gray personally asked Thompson for the funds, and Thompson has since entered a guilty plea to two different conspiracy charges. Atkinson stated that Gray presented a one page budget to Thompson of $425,000 and then asked him for a “pay (to) get-out-the-vote campaign,” and Thompson agreed.

During the court hearing, the federal prosecutor made the claim for the first time that Gray fully understood that the illegal campaign had to be kept a secret, and that he had made an agreement with Thompson that the candidate would only refer to him as “Uncle Earl” in order to keep the scheme under wraps.

The latest details were revealed Monday, when Thompson pleaded guilty to ushering over $2 million into various illegal contributions to local and federal political campaigns, which includes Gray’s 2010 bid for Mayor of DC.

Gray has yet to be charged and has steadfastly denied any participation or wrongdoing in the campaign. On Monday, Robert Bennett, Gray’s attorney, said the mayor has maintained his innocence and Bennett referred to the claims as allegations.

According to the Mayor, Thompson is attempting to implicate Gray in order to reduce the sentence Thompson faces. Gray, however, did confirm that he referred to Thompson by the “Uncle Earl” name in order to hide his identity from Fenty, who also received donations from Thompson.

The news of the latest development in this long drawn out investigation has spread rapidly, as has speculation over what this may mean for Gray’s current effort to keep his seat. The charges against Thompson come a mere three weeks before the district’s Democratic mayoral primary.

According to the latest court filings, Thompson spent approximately $668,800 for campaign services and materials that directly benefited Gray, which is more than what was reported previously.

A total of seven people who are connected to Thompson, or who were affiliated with Gray’s most recent campaign, have already pleaded guilty to similar charges. Thompson, who is now 58, has been mentioned in many of the cases, but was not formally identified in court documents, other than as an unnamed co-conspirator.

Prior to the hearing on Monday, Gray stated that he only briefly scanned the legal documents and said that he had absolutely no involvement with the shadow campaign.

During Monday’s court hearing, prosecutors portrayed the mayor as having intimate knowledge of Thompson’s campaign finance schemes.

In addition to the two counts of conspiracy, Thompson was also charged with the subverting of campaign finance laws in order to direct money to the DC and mayoral council candidates from 2006 through 2012. Thompson entered a guilty plea to one count of each of conspiring to break local and federal finance laws throughout the six year time period, with the use of illegal conduit contributions, as well as off-the-books spending.

Thompson is expected to serve up to six months behind bars, as well as up to three years of supervised release, as part of a plea agreement that was meted out between his defense team and prosecutors prior to the hearing.

Federal and white collar defense attorney David Benowitz offers a full range of criminal defense services and is well-versed in defending clients against similar charges. If you are facing such a charge, or believe you are under investigation, contact our DC law office today, (202) 600-9400.