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One small detail in the current federal investigation into Mayor Vince Gray‘s 2010 mayoral campaign that’s escaped much notice is the fact that attorney Fred Cooke Jr. is now three for three in recent federal probes involving city officials.
Cooke was there almost from the start when former Attorney General Peter Nickles started looking into disgraced former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.‘s habit of stealing public money. He’s also representing D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown in a federal investigation of his 2008 reelection campaign.
But until recently Cooke’s been absent from potentially the biggest investigation of all, that of Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign. When the feds’ investigation started a year ago, after Sulaimon Brown started blabbing, Gray lawyered up with big shot Robert Bennett. It wasn’t until heavyweight political donor and Medicaid contractor Jeff Thompson became part of the investigation that Cooke made an appearance in the mayor’s ordeal.
The Post reported last week that Cooke is representing Jeanne Harris, Thompson’s longtime associate, whose company was paid $20,000 by the Gray campaign, and Thomas Gore, who helped handle the finances of Gray’s campaign. The paper also says Cooke is representing a Philadelphia-based field operative, Tracy Hardy, who says he coordinated with Gray’s close friend, Vernon Hawkins, but did not work directly for the Gray campaign. Previously, Cooke represented Thompson’s Medicaid company when Nickles sued it for allegedly bilking the city for millions in overcharges.
Cooke has been at this game, with no small measure of success, for decades. Cooke was also once former Mayor Marion Barry‘s corporation counsel and has been his longtime attorney. Cooke’s dual role as a go-to attorney for so many city officials and as a paid lobbyist have long given some good government types heartburn. The newly passed ethics bill includes a provision that seems directly written for Cooke: It prohibits lawyer/lobbyists from giving pols discounted legal services, though the definition of what counts as a discount is a pretty slippery fish.
So it’s no surprise that he gets so many calls from embattled pols and others connected to city government. LL supposes the real surprise is that it took so long for him to complete the trifecta.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery