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At-Large contestants: Orange, Biddle, Shapiro
At-Large contestants: Orange, Biddle, Shapiro

The dream of every insurgent candidate in D.C. has come true: FBI and IRS raids were conducted on the home and offices of a gargantuan political player, Jeffrey Thompson, who has ties to every incumbent Council member on the April 3rd primary ballot.

The details of what the Feds are pursuing remain unclear, but news accounts and intelligence gleaned from the political world suggest the possibility of straw donors and other illegal campaign activities. No charges have been filed.

Politicians in the District have spent more than a year under a cloud of suspicion and scandal. Battles about ethics and the conduct of elected officials have raged. One Council member resigned, pleaded guilty to two felonies and seems likely to be headed to prison in the coming months. Two separate federal grand juries are looking into the campaigns of the Mayor and the Council Chairman. A former Board of Elections and Ethics chair suspects "criminal activity" in the case of Kwame Brown. Many people believe that the Thompson probe stems from the potential misuse of money orders in Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign for mayor.

And now, with less than a month before voters head to the polls, Jeff Thompson --well known to local politicians, but by no means a household name-- has been placed under his own cloud of suspicion and with him every elected official who ever benefited from his largess.

It is called "guilt by association." The notion, despite being an ad hominem fallacy, is not a tough sell in an environment already contaminated with scandal, investigations, rumor, divisiveness and derision.

In the At-Large Council race, previously a quiet affair, Vincent Orange is coming under attack from his Democratic opponents Peter Shapiro and Sekou Biddle. A report by WAMU’s Patrick Madden tied donations received by Orange’s 2011 campaign to Thompson, an associate and her relatives.

Shapiro struck first. The WAMU piece quoted him seeking information about “questionable money orders” connected to Thompson. Biddle piled on by taking the fight to twitter where his campaign is asking Orange to produce copies of the money orders.

The news media picked up on the scrum. Orange has declared his campaign finances "clean" and is now launching an offensive aimed at his opponents.

Debates and candidate forums are plentiful this time of the year. Given the high stakes and increasingly hostile rhetoric, other skirmishes are likely. 

This is now the contest to watch. The ability of each rival to maneuver could determine the outcome of the At-Large election.

In the Ward races, the past campaigns of incumbents Muriel Bowser, Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry have received funding from Thompson. None of their opponents has yet to raise questions or demand answers about ties to potentially dirty money. I cannot imagine what they are waiting for and will be dumbfounded if they fail to incorporate this brewing scandal into a strategic attack.

A little over a week ago it appeared as though every incumbent would be breezing to re-election. But in politics, success and failure at the polls is often about timing.  An "October surprise" can derail a candidate seemingly headed toward victory.

While no one has suggested that Orange, Bowser, Alexander or Barry (Jack Evans is up for re-election, but he is uncontested) has done anything wrong or is of interest to the Feds, in an atmosphere polluted with scandal even the guiltless can suffer from an exasperated electorate.

Chuck Thies co-hosts the "D.C. Politics" show Thursday mornings at 11:00 am on WPFW 89.3 FM, streaming online at wpfw.org. You can follow him on Twitter @chuckthies

0 Comments For This Article

Mahdi Leroy J. Thorpe, Jr.

Chuck

You need a life - go play with your kid or wife if she can stand you. You constantly attack African-American elected officials and businessmen and I am sick of you lynching African-American men. You turn the other check on allegations of David Catania's financial ties to health care providers and Jim Grahams allegations of gangstering African-American businessmen to pay to play for city contracts.

You even disrespect your co-host Eugene Kinslow, on WOL Radio when you talk over him on issues. I don't think you are racist - your just an ignorant small time blogger and a want to be journalist trying to make a name by trashing African-Americans.

Chuck Thies

I love you, too, Leroy. And you get props for putting your real name on the comment.

Just so you know, I am colorblind, but my nose works just fine. I trash trash. The subject matter of my commentary has nothing to do with race.

Anonymous

Chuck- Madden is great but WAMU didn't break that story. Alan broke it about a year ago. Madden's story was just a rehash.

Anonymous

Oh great, I was hoping the only crooked campaigner this election would be Pete Ross -- the guy running to replace Micheal Brown as Shadow Senator. Anyone seen his story? Ross, a millionaire high end furniture store owner, stole money from the (not millionaire) guys who worked for him by not paying taxes he had already deducted from their pay. He was indicted, charged and convicted. Then, the feds were shocked when he withheld information about his trustfund during testimony. He eventually went to jail and is now running around certain neighborhoods behaving as if he's got some street cred because he knows the inside of the big house. (only some neighborhoods, mind you). Why is he running for office??? The last I heard, he's trying to convince a judge to put him back in jail over some do gooder protest, but I say he's just trying to change the results of google searches ....