Best Place to Learn the Ins and Outs of D.C. Politics

The J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

If you really want to learn more about local politics, forget embarking on an internship at your councilmember’s office or volunteering for a campaign. The best place to learn about D.C. politics is at the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

The FBI has been up in the D.C. government’s business for so long it’s hard to keep track of all the investigations. Just look at the city government-related topics FBI agents get to learn about.

Former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. taught the feds about how publicly funded nonprofits work in D.C. by stealing more than $350,000 from one. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham’s former chief of staff, Ted Loza, taught the FBI how advocacy works at the Wilson Building by taking a bunch of cash from a taxicab lobbyist. And failed mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown taught the FBI what local elections are really about by providing the paper trail showing he was improperly paid by Mayor Vince Gray’s campaign.

Jeanne Clarke Harris, a longtime associate to prodigious local political fundraiser Jeff Thompson, taught the FBI a thing or two about raising campaign cash by admitting to being part of a massive, long-running straw-donor scheme designed to circumvent campaign donation limits.

Throw in an investigation into D.C. government contracting (specifically the lucrative lottery contract) and by now, the FBI ought to have a pretty good idea of how D.C. government really works. No wonder they’re looking for a new home in the ’burbs.