Del. Donna Christensen, a Democrat, said in a statement released through her campaign that she had no way of knowing she received illegal contributions at fundraisers organized by Jeffrey Thompson. She plans to donate the money to charity, starting with a $2,300 donation to an unspecified organization, the statement said.
Two Thompson associates have pleaded guilty in the past week to making contributions to elected officials that they were later reimbursed for by Thompson or his accounting firm, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in local and federal government contracts.
Thompson's home and offices were searched last year. He has not been charged with a crime. He's also the subject of a grand jury investigation involving District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign, according to court documents and attorneys in a related case.
Christensen received at least $37,000 from Thompson-affiliated donors during the last election cycle, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance records. That represents about 28 percent of the money she received from individual donors that cycle.
"I did not have any reason to believe that there was anything wrong with the checks that the campaign received," said Christensen, who added that her campaign "has never had an excessive amount of funding.
The campaign did not specify how much money would be donated to charity, but it said Christensen plans to give away everything she received from a fundraiser in February 2011, one of two fundraisers Thompson hosted for her.
Most of the Thompson-affiliated donors gave $2,300, including Lee Calhoun of Silver Spring, Md., who pleaded guilty last week to making that donation and an identical contribution in his wife's name on Thompson's behalf. Calhoun admitted in court that he was reimbursed for $160,000 in contributions to candidates for federal and local office.
Most if not all of the questionable donors attended the February 2011 fundraiser, which was held at a Washington restaurant, the statement said.
"I have known many of the donors personally dating back to the '80s and have spoken at issue-oriented events that they were involved in, particularly on Caribbean and African issues. For many years, I was the only person in Congress from the English-speaking Caribbean, and in addition to my work for the Virgin Islands, I would also assist them in matters before the Congress," she said.
Thompson, a native of Jamaica, has sold his stake in the accounting firm, which is now known as Bazilio Cobb Associates. Christensen noted in her statement that the company has done work in the Virgin Islands, notably a $6.3 million contract to audit funds awarded to the Virgin Islands Department of Education.
"That contract was awarded through the competitive bidding process and was approved by the U.S. Department of Education," Christensen said.
More than 100 people with links to Thompson have contributed to political candidates. The donors often contributed the maximum legal amount to a candidate on the same day, records show.
In addition to Calhoun, Philadelphia businessman Stanley Straughter has pleaded guilty to making an illegal contribution and admitted in court that he was reimbursed for at least $132,000 in contributions. Straughter and his wife also gave to Christensen, records show.
As a delegate to Congress, Christensen can vote in committees but not on the House floor. A New Jersey native who moved to the Virgin Islands to practice medicine, she was first elected in 1996 and is serving her ninth term.
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