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Jeanne Clark Harris, a longtime associate of embattled campaign financier Jeff Thompson, was charged today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on two counts of conspiracy and one count of fraud in a plan to funnel campaign money through straw donors to both federal and District campaigns. Harris allegedly channeled $38,000 to a candidate in the 2010 mayoral campaign—who isn’t identified in court papers, but who is most likely Vince Gray, the candidate Thompson backed against Adrian Fenty.
Harris is charged in a criminal information, which can only be filed with the consent of the defendant. She’s expected to plead guilty Tuesday at 1 p.m.
According to the document, Harris allegedly solicited straw donors among her friends, family, and employees that she knew through her businesses to give to political campaigns in order to circumvent campaign finance limits, starting in 2008.
She was working at the behest of a man named in the criminal information as CO-CONSPIRATOR #1, who is described as the owner of one local business and the majority stakeholder in another. Harris and the unnamed conspirator had a close friendship and professional relationship, according to the document. After a straw donor made the contributions, according to the document, Harris would use money from her co-conspirator’s business to pay them back.
In 2008, Harris allegedly donated $14,650 to federal campaigns and committees, while convincing three other people to contribute the individual maximum—-$2,300—-each. CO-CONSPIRATOR #1 then paid Harris back for the campaign donations.
A similar process allegedly occurred in 2010, when Harris organized 16 people, as well as her two corporations, to make the maximum $2,000 donations to a 2010 mayoral candidate in the District described as “Candidate A.” The donors were again reimbursed by Harris’s co-conspirator.
When federal authorities began investigating the operation in 2011, according to the information, Harris’s co-conspirator allegedly gave her a falsified letter about an agreement between one of Harris’s companies and the company the co-conspirator owned a majority stake in in order to throw off the investigation.
Harris is also charged with taking over $900,000 in campaign contributions off of one of her corporations’ 2010 tax return, even though political contributions aren’t tax-deductible. The document also says she underreported the firm’s income.
The charges are the first brought by federal prosecutors investigating Gray’s campaign that don’t involve Sulaimon Brown. Federal agents raided Thompson’s home and offices in March, and later subpoenaed documents from members of the D.C. Council who got contributions from him.
Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0