News & Politics

Ron Machen Says Jeffrey Thompson Is the “Tip of the Iceberg”

The US attorney didn’t mention Mayor Vince Gray by name, but said charges could be on the way for candidates who accepted Thompson’s illegal donations.

US Attorney Ron Machen explained Jeffrey Thompson's "sordid history" of influencing elections with illegal contributions. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Taking a victory lap, US Attorney Ron Machen said Jeffrey Thompson’s admission that he conspired to defraud local and national elections “pulls back the curtain” on the corruption of DC politics going back nearly a decade, and added that more charges could be on the way for the candidates who allegedly signed off on Thompson’s activities.

“The people of the District of Columbia deserve the truth,” Machen said at a press conference shortly after Thompson entered his plea in federal court. “Year after year, election after election, the voters of the District of Columbia were deceived.”

In his tough-talking press conference, Machen went back over many of the details about Thompson’s illicit financing of numerous DC mayoral and Council campaigns his deputies described in court, including the $668,800 Thompson admitted to spending on behalf of Mayor Vince Gray in 2010 and the allegation that Gray knew about the under-the-table payments. 

Although Gray was named in court, Machen referred to the mayor as “Candidate A,” but repeated many of the damning allegations revealed in Thompson’s plea agreement.

“Thompson asked to be called ‘Uncle Earl,’ and the candidate agreed to keep Thompson’s secret,” Machen said, referring to Thompson’s request that Gray and his associates refer to him by a nickname to avoid exposing his support for Gray’s mayoral bid.

In interviews this afternoon, Gray vehemently denied doing anything illegal, but did acknowlege meeting with Thompson and using the “Uncle Earl” moniker. Gray has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but Machen says his investigation, which began in 2011, continues.

“Today marks a new day,” Machen said. “This investigation enters a new phase to hold accountable all those who hid the truth. We are not going away. If you participated in backroom under the table deals with Thompson, I urge you to come forward now and own up to your conduct.

Machen also went through Thompson’s spending $809,000 in unreported funds on a presidential campaign in the 2008 Democratic primary, revealed in prior cases as Hillary Clinton. However, unlike many of the DC politicians who benefitted from Thompson’s largesse, there is “no indication” Clinton was aware of the support she was getting, Machen said.

Machen also addressed the fact that with the government willing to waive the recommended 18-month jail sentence for the federal conspiracy charge in exchange for his cooperation, Thompson could serve as little as six months in jail.

“It’s a balancing act,” Machen said. “We have an opportunity to lift up this curtain. What you learned today is the tip of the iceberg.”

Machen said he has no timetable for how the investigation will proceed, but today’s revelations come a week before early voting begins in the Democratic primary for DC mayor that features “Mayoral Candidate A”—better known as Gray—leading the polls.

Machen’s office also released a statement of offense against Thompson, which lays out in more details the shadow campaigns he confessed to financing.

Statement of Offense in US v. Jeffrey Thompson

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.