WASHINGTON – Four D.C. councilmembers may be impeding a federal investigation about recent campaign finances, and may have violated the terms of a subpoena by admitting they received it.
The investigation into campaign finances in District politics heated up recently after several elected officials acknowledged their campaigns have received grand jury subpoenas from the Office of the U.S. Attorney. Other councilmembers who likely received subpoenas, but have refused to publicly say so, have come under fire for not publicly admitting their campaign was issued the same subpoena as the others.
Councilmember Muriel Bowser, D-Ward 4, has repeatedly refused to say if her campaign was issued a subpoena, despite public records which show her campaign — like mayor Vincent Gray’s and almost every councilember’s — received thousands of dollars from Jeffery Thompson, the wealthy businessman at the center of the investigation.
“Only the U.S. attorney can say who got a subpoena.” Bowser has said repeatedly.
She may be correct.
According to the cover letter from the U.S. Attorney that accompanied the subpoenas, the recipients have been asked not to disclose anything about the subpoenas.
At the bottom of each letter, printed in bold text, the U.S. Attorney’s Office writes,
“It is requested that you not disclose the existence of this subpoena. Any such disclosure could impede the investigation being conducted and there by interfere with the enforcement of the law.”
So far, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and councilmembers Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, Phil Mendelson, D-At-Large, and Yvette Alexander, D-Ward 7, have all told reporters that their campaigns have been issued subpoenas for documents related to donations made by Thompson and his associates.
Mendelson says his decision to violate that request was a “balancing act.”
“I understand it to be a request,” Mendelson tells WTOP. “I think the test is if I impede the investigation. I’m a public official and accountable to folks.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.