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Federal authorities continue to probe the campaign finance practices of one D.C.’s top political donors, businessman Jeffrey Thompson. Now, a member of Thompson's network of political donors appears to have connections to one of the most infamous scandals in D.C. history: the drug trial of Marion Barry.
The year was 1990. Washington's then-Mayor Marion Barry was on trial for drug use and perjury. One of the key witnesses for federal prosecutors was an Iranian-born restaurant owner named Hassan Mohammadi.
Mohammadi testified that he supplied Barry with cocaine on more than 30 occasions. The jury ended up convicting Barry on a just a single misdemeanor drug charge and the "mayor-for-life" ended up serving six months in prison.
More than $25K in donations
Fast forward to 2012. Once again, City Hall is under siege amid a series of scandals and investigations, and once again, there is a connection to Mohammadi. Campaign finance reports show Mohammadi, his immediate family members and associated businesses, have given more than $25,000 to D.C. politicians over the past few years, including Mayor Vincent Gray and former Mayor Adrian Fenty. (In 2010, Washington City Paper noted a $2,000 donation from Mohammadi to Fenty's campaign.)
More importantly, these contributions appear to be part of the Jeffrey Thompson network of donors and donations.
Over the years, Thompson, his employees, family members, and associated companies have contributed heavily to local campaigns. In March, FBI agents raided the the home and offices of Thompson, a leading government contractor, and his associate, Jeanne Harris.
Thompson’s network of donors was linked to a set of suspicious money order contributions to D.C. elected officials that raised concerns about possible "straw-donations," as a WAMU investigation first reported earlier this spring.
Mohammadi family members gave contributions
Records show that Mohammadi's donations were almost always on the same dates, for the same amount of money, and to the same candidates as the Thompson network.
For example, last March when Vincent Orange received a huge haul of Thompson-linked cash, including those suspicious money orders, four $1,000 checks were sent to Orange from Mohammadi's family members and related companies.
Many checks were given by Mohammadi’s daughter, Sanaz, who on an online professional profile lists a brief stint working at Thompson’s healthcare company in 2008.
When Mohammadi and his wife were charged by the federal government last year with stealing money out of their employees’ health care accounts, Mohammadi was briefly represented in the D.C. court system by attorney Fred Cooke, the same attorney who represents Thompson’s associate Jeanne Harris in the ongoing federal investigation.
The couple was later tried in Washington County, Md. and a jury found them not guilty.
Land sale shows Mohammadi-Thompson connection
But the most tangible connection between Mohammadi and the Thompson network is a small piece of property in Three Springs, Pa., a small town about a two and a half hours away from D.C. with a population of less than 500 people.
According to property records provided by the register and recorder’s office in Huntingdon County, Pa., Mohammadi's wife's family purchased the land in 1997 from Jeanne Harris, Thompson’s long-time associate. The land was later transferred to Mohammadi.
Repeated attempts to reach Mohammadi by phone and by visiting the family’s home in Northwest DC were not successful.
Mohammadi and his family members have not been accused of doing anything wrong. The contributions were legal, the amounts did not exceed contribution limits, and bundling donations among family members is hardly unusual in D.C. politics.
Thompson's far-reaching network
But the connection highlights a growing pattern: donations from companies and people that, on the surface, have no connection to Thompson yet later are revealed to have ties.
Take the hair salon on Capitol Hill that, along with its owner, is listed on nearly $17,000 in contributions over the years. It turns out the property is owned by Thompson. Or look at the Hollywood movie producer that gave nearly $30,000 in political contributions. As the Washington City Paper reported, the man has a business relationship with Thompson.
In fact, Thompson’s extended network of donors has given at least $800,000 to city politicians over the past decade, according to a City Paper analysis from last year.
During that time, Thompson and his companies have scored some of the most lucrative city government contracts, including a $320 million per year Medicaid contract for Thompson’s health care company and nearly $50 million in contracts over the past decade for the accounting firm Thompson founded.
Neither Thompson nor Harris have been charged with any wrongdoing. Calls to Harris' attorney, Fred Cooke were not returned. Thompson's lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, has a policy of not commenting during ongoing investigations.
Now federal investigators appear to be scouring over these contributions, contracts and other records.
Subpoenas were sent out this spring to lawmakers and candidates asking for all records of donations tied to Thompson, Jeanne Harris, and other related companies. A court filing unsealed this month revealed authorities have already seized millions of electronic pages and records from Thompson.
If Mohammadi is any indication, it appears the network of donors may be broader than first believed.Campaign Contributions tied to Hassan Mohammadi