Credit: Photos by Darrow Montgomery

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District Attorney General Irv Nathan is giving more scrutiny to D.C. gas baron Joe Mamo, who owns nearly half of the District’s gas stations.

The District filed suit yesterday against Mamo, three of his companies, and ExxonMobil, alleging that Mamo’s agreements with Exxon unfairly eliminate competition from other gasoline wholesalers. Mamo owns gas stations, sells wholesale gasoline to the station dealers from Exxon, and, Nathan alleges, forces the dealers who run his gas stations to buy Exxon gasoline from his own company.

That cuts out other Exxon wholesalers who could sell to the stations, according to the attorney general, hurting District consumers’ chances at lower prices. (For the full run-down on Mamo, check out Christine MacDonald‘s 2011 Washington City Paper profile.)

In a statement released yesterday, Mamo says he’ll fight the lawsuit.

“The District of Columbia is targeting distributors for legitimate operating agreements that have been in place for years and that are similar to operating agreements and dealer arrangements in jurisdictions across the country,” Mamo says.

This isn’t the first time Mamo and Nathan have tangled. Nathan’s office investigated Mamo in 2011 for unfair trade practices, but, last year, Nathan said he decided not to sue.

Mamo’s a heavy-hitter in District politics, employing former councilmember John Ray as his lobbyist. With the three companies named in the lawsuit alone, Mamo gave $17,750 to District candidates, according to Office of Campaign Finance records. A tally from 2011 that included Mamo and his family members put his contributions at almost $60,000, along with $42,100 to federal and state candidates.

Previous attempts to crack down on Mamo’s expansive business have been described as attacks on Mamo’s civil rights. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s ultimately doomed 2011 attempt to ban wholesalers from running gas stations earned denunciations from the Congressional Black Caucus and Jesse Jackson as an attack on a successful African-American businessman.

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery