Former District of Columbia Council Candidate Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Violate D.C. Campaign Finance Laws
WASHINGTON—Kelvin Robinson, a former candidate for the Council of the District of Columbia, pled guilty today to a felony charge for conspiring to defraud the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance by receiving and concealing campaign contributions in excess of those permitted under D.C. campaign finance laws.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr.; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Robinson, 53, pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiring to violate District of Columbia campaign finance laws by defrauding the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance. The Honorable Anita Josey-Herring scheduled sentencing for August 13. The charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under the court’s voluntary sentencing guidelines, the parties have agreed that Robinson faces a range of one to 12 months in prison or possibly probation.
The guilty plea calls for Robinson to cooperate fully in an ongoing investigation. The charge involves contributions to Robinson’s 2010 campaigns for At-Large Member of and for the Ward 6 seat on the Council of the District of Columbia. Robinson admitted that about $33,500 was secretly channeled to his campaigns from businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson.
Thompson is the former chairman, chief executive officer, and majority owner of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio, and Associates (TCBA), a corporation that provided accounting, management, consulting, and tax services. He also is the former chairman, chief executive officer, and owner of D.C. Healthcare Systems Inc. (DCHSI), an investment holding and for-profit corporation. Both companies generated millions of dollars in government contracts.
Thompson and five others earlier pled guilty to charges involving Thompson’s illegal contributions to numerous federal and District of Columbia campaigns. Others who have pled guilty include Eugenia C. Harris, the owner of two businesses in the District of Columbia; Lee A. Calhoun, an executive for TCBA; Stanley Straughter, the owner of a business based in Philadelphia; Vernon Hawkins, who was a volunteer advisor in 2010 for a 2010 mayoral campaign; and Troy White, the owner of a marketing company based in New York.
Another person, former District of Columbia Council member Michael A. Brown, pled guilty to charges in an unrelated bribery investigation. In those proceedings, he publicly admitted that his campaign committees had secretly received money from Thompson.
As part of Thompson’s guilty plea, on March 10, 2014, he agreed to cooperate fully in an ongoing investigation. No date has been set for his sentencing.
“Today, Kelvin Robinson became the second candidate for political office to publicly admit to taking illegal campaign cash from Jeff Thompson,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Although Mr. Robinson conspired to engage in illicit shadow campaign activities with Mr. Thompson in 2010, he should be commended for having the courage to come forward today, save the taxpayer the cost of a trial, and own up to his illegal conduct.”
“Today, Mr. Robinson admitted to concealing in-kind contributions to his campaign for D.C. Council and filing false reports to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “Campaign finance laws are in place to ensure fairness in our elections so the people’s interests are realized. Accepting illegal contributions is unacceptable and the FBI remains vigilant to such abuse. We urge anyone with information about fraud or corruption to come forward and contact the FBI.”
According to a statement of offense submitted as part of today’s guilty plea, Robinson had two principal campaign committees in 2010. One was for an At-Large seat. Ultimately, Robinson decided instead to pursue election as the Ward 6 Council representative, and a second campaign committee was formed. Robinson did not win the Democratic primary election.
Robinson admitted that Thompson, with Robinson’s knowledge, provided in-kind contributions, financing “shadow campaigns.” Thompson channeled much of this money through Harris, according to the statement of offense. In May 2010, for example, Thompson made about $7,500 in contributions in coordination with Robinson’s At-Large campaign. Also, from May 2010 until September 2010, Thompson made about $26,000 in contributions to Robinson’s Ward 6 campaign. Among other things, the money was used to purchase yard signs, banners, posters, and T-shirts and fund get-out-the-vote efforts, as well as to pay rent for a campaign office.
The District of Columbia Campaign Act imposes limits on the amount of money that can be contributed to a District of Columbia candidate and that candidate’s principal campaign committee. It also prohibits any person or corporation from making a contribution in the name of another, including by reimbursement. Finally, it requires principal campaign committees to file periodic reports of receipts and disbursements.
The law limits the amount that an individual or entity can contribute in the aggregate in the primary and general elections to any one candidate for At-Large member of the D.C. Council and the campaign committee of that candidate to $1,000. It likewise has a $500 limit for candidates seeking election to Ward seats and their campaign committees.
In his guilty plea, Robinson admitted that he caused his campaign committees to file false and misleading reports to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance by concealing the excessive and unreported in-kind contributions provided directly and indirectly by Thompson.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge Parlave, and Special Agent in Charge Kelly commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and IRS-CI.
They also expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael K. Atkinson, Loyaan A. Egal, Ellen Chubin Epstein, Lionel André, Jonathan P. Hooks, Ephraim “Fry” Wernick, and Ted Radway of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, who are prosecuting cases in the investigation.
Finally, they acknowledged the efforts of others who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Deborah Connor, Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section, as well as Criminal Investigators Matthew J. Kutz, Mark Crawford, Melissa Matthews, and Durand Odom; Forensic Accountants Crystal Boodoo and Maria Boodoo; Paralegal Specialists Krishawn Graham, Tasha Harris, and Corrine Kleinman; Former Paralegal Specialists Shanna Hays and Nicole Wattelet; and Legal Assistant Angela Lawrence.