When Jack Evans was finally forced to resign in disgrace nearly two years ago both my close friend and my wife doubted he’d go to jail. I assured them they were wrong.
My reasoning was solid. Sure, Evans had friends in high places due to having been DC’s longest-serving councilman and ruling over the city’s powerful finance committee for an incredible two decades. But now his corruption was out in the open and not even the Washington Post, his longtime protector, was ignoring it.
After all, Evans’ sleaze wasn’t run-of-the-mill. It hit peak form in his last couple of years in office when Evans secretly sold himself to private clients (developers, bankers, investors and the like) for an annual fee of between $25,000 and $100,000.
There was another reason Evans was headed to jail, I explained to Tony and Julia. With the Black Lives Matter movement hitting its stride there was no way to give Evans, who’s white, a pass. Especially not when a string of Black DC politicians had been paraded into prison for far less. “He’s going to do time,” I assured them.
Fast forward two years and where do things stand? Well, Tony and Julia were right. Far from behind bars, Jack Evans is a man about town. He’s even hinting at a second comeback bid. And why not? Talk of his scandal has quieted.
The Post, after a brief burst of belated journalism, quickly returned to form. So much so that during a 2020 comeback bid – which Evans filed for only ten days after resigning in disgrace – the Post called him a “promising” candidate and hailed his experience. Then with early voting underway the paper let Evans falsely claim, “There was nobody who made money off a decision I made.” Still Evans’ bid came up short with just 3% of Ward 2 voters backing him.
Somehow neither that dismal showing nor Evans’ corruption was enough to prevent the Washington Business Journal from floating Evans’ name for the position of DC’s chief financial officer the following year. “If they were to ask, I’d certainly be interested,” Evans was quoted as saying.
Such lenient press coverage makes it unlikely that Evans will do time. So Evans’ clients, whose bidding he quietly did, are also off the hook. Even Rusty Lindner.
That’s how things work in the District of Columbia, where the old boys’ network reigns. White, well-connected folks don’t get locked up. Not even when they’re central players in what may be the city’s biggest-ever corruption scandal.
Russell “Rusty” Lindner is CEO of Colonial Parking, a company co-founded in 1953 by his father Tad Lindner. From its humbling beginnings Colonial – named after Tad’s alma mater, the George Washington University Colonials – grew to become a DC empire. Since 2012 that empire has been solely owned by the Lindner family, which also owns Colonial’s parent company, Forge Co., where Rusty is also CEO.
Rusty Lindner’s 30-year friendship with his neighbor Jack Evans dates all the way back to Evans’ first run for DC Council in 1991. Lindner’s early and continued financial backing led Evans to call the parking magnate his “alpha supporter.”
In addition to campaign contributions Lindner also plied his friend with more discreet money. Evans in turn would stop at almost nothing to advance Lindner’s interests. (Neither Lindner nor Evans responded to requests for comment.)
For over a dozen years Lindner secured Evans’ services by paying the big law firms where Evans moonlighted. (Despite six-figure salaries DC councilmembers are allowed to earn outside income.) But in Evans’ final two-plus years in office Lindner began paying his friend more directly, through Evans’ one-man firm, NSE Consulting.
Evans created NSE so that he could capture all of his clients’ fees, rather than allowing his employer law firms to continue siphoning off a chunk. The move pleased Lindner whose payments would now “run entirely to [Evans],” rather than Evans only getting a “cut of my fee,” he told DC Council investigators.
Lindner’s Forge Co. began paying Evans’ NSE $25,000 per year effective October 1, 2016. That number quickly doubled to $50,000 by February 2017, a level it’d stay at through January 2019, when Evans’ career began to unravel.
“[Linder] wanted his retention of NSE to remain absolutely confidential,” a DC Council investigation found. Asked to explain his insistence on secrecy, Lindner told Council investigators, “I don’t like to read my name in the newspaper… You know, seeing me associated with this sort of thing raises questions.”
Questions indeed. Only Lindner didn’t have to answer them thanks to his lawyer jumping in to ask that the conversation go off the record, which the weak investigators instantly agreed to.
While no one wants to be associated with “this sort of thing” it’d look particularly bad for Lindner, owing to his prominent role in the country’s banking system. For six years, from 2011-2016, Lindner served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. When Lindner began secretly paying Evans via NSE in October 2016, he was not only on the board, he was its chairman.
This is being reported here for the first time. Why is that?
Lindner’s Reserve Bank role was public. In fact he went out of his way to highlight it for Council investigators, even telling them Evans made him a better bank director!
Yet the Post’s reporting on Lindner left out his prominent position. Bringing it up amid the Evans scandal might raise eyebrows.
But before pay-to-play allegations swirled around Lindner the Post took a different approach. In 2013 the paper freely noted, “Rusty is deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.” (This was in a fawning profile of the “successful, influential, reserved — and decent” Lindner family.)
What Lindner pulled off as a Reserve Bank chairman – secretly paying a top legislator who quietly did his bidding – makes the ethical maelstrom currently besetting the Federal Reserve Board look like child’s play.
Lindner claimed that he paid Evans just to be a “kitchen cabinet advisor” who he knocked ideas around with. But that’s hard to square with the official acts Evans took at Lindner’s prompting and for his benefit.
Let’s look at just one day, April 21, 2015. That’s the only day for which a rundown of Lindner’s and Evans’ text message exchanges can be found in the accompanying documents to the Council investigation.
(April 2015 is one of only eight months over a 15-year period when Lindner wasn’t paying for Evans’ services. The gap was due to Evans, in January 2015, losing his job at Patton Boggs, the law firm where Lindner paid for Evans’ services for the prior 12 years. By October 2015 Evans had joined Manatt Phelps & Phillips, where Lindner’s checks would soon land.)
The morning of April 21, 2015 Lindner kicked things off bright and early, with his first text to Evans coming at 4:30 AM. Despite the unseemly hour Lindner got down to business, directing Evans to oppose the mayor’s proposed parking tax increase, but on the sly. When approaching the mayor’s team Evans should “Play dumb,” Lindner coached.
At 6:11 AM Evans sent his first reply of the morning. Six minutes later Lindner, now at the gym, let Evans know that he’d be sending him something. “[D]o you have a private fax?” Lindner texted, and “want to talk in a hour?”
At 8:29 AM Lindner sent Evans an email which is partially redacted but appears to be to Evans’ personal AOL account. In the email Lindner elaborates on his 4:30 AM text. “Here’s what I sent this morning. ‘Play dumb’, and let’s see how they react. Better for you not to contact them, for sake of objectivity.”
If DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was successful in raising parking taxes from 18% to 22%, Colonial would take a hit. The increase would end up “killing my business,” Lindner wrote in a later email to Evans.
Evans got to work. His personal fiefdom, the finance committee, recommended a contingency: Bowser’s tax hike would take effect only if DC met certain financial benchmarks. The full Council adopted Evans’ modification and the tax hike was ultimately thwarted, the Council investigation found.
At his patron’s prompting Evans outmaneuvered the mayor. But what if Bowser tried to bring back her tax hike? “[I]f she does I will stop it again,” Evans crowed to Lindner. True to his word Evans helped kill the tax hike the following year too, providing Lindner with a substantial savings.
Taxes weren’t the only thing on Lindner’s mind on April 21, 2015. By 9:45 AM he’d moved on to another business concern, this one before a different public body, where Evans also held sway.
Metro – the regional transit authority, where Evans served on the board – was requesting bids for a parking contract. But they were due the next day, too soon for Lindner. “They reached out to no one,” Lindner texted Evans. So Evans got the deadline pushed back a week, a Metro investigation found. (Colonial didn’t end up bidding on the contract.)
Into the afternoon Lindner’s focus stayed on the “bullshitting” transit agency. Metro was handing out “sole-sourced” contracts to his competitors, Lindner complained to Evans at 4:07 PM. A minute later Evans texted back, “I agree. It’s interesting.”
Evans would soon be in better position to help. By late January 2016 he’d lobbied his way into Metro’s chairmanship. From that perch Evans repeatedly urged Metro’s inspector general to investigate the incumbent parking vendor, Laz. That was just one facet of Evans’ “anti-Laz campaign,” according to the Metro investigation, which noted: “Evans acknowledged that these efforts were prompted by Lindner and were based on information that Lindner provided to Evans for the purpose of discrediting Laz, a Colonial competitor.”
Lindner at the time was eyeing a monster contract. The prior year, 2015, Metro generated nearly $50 million in parking revenue. And now, “Metro was seeking private companies capable of managing the agency’s 56 parking facilities — more than 59,000 parking spots — for a contract length as long as 50 years,” the Post reported.
Metro abandoned its privatization plan in November 2016. But Colonial had taken steps towards bidding on the contract, even as the company was secretly paying Evans, the Metro investigation found.
The official acts outlined above can be traced back to a single day’s texts between Lindner and Evans. One day in a partnership that dates back 30 years.
The Post could’ve pulled back the curtain on Evans’ sprawling scandal. Instead the paper chose to contain the fallout by protecting Evans’ clients – none more so than Lindner. As the damning Metro report sent Evans’ career spiraling downward, the Post lied to keep Lindner out of the line of fire, falsely claiming he “wasn’t doing business or seeking to do business with Metro.”
That wasn’t the only whitewash.
Metro’s investigation into Evans’ corruption concluded in May 2019. This, along with an ongoing federal investigation, shamed the DC Council into belatedly launching its own inquiry.
But from the outset DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson promised the Council investigation wouldn’t be “super broad.” Mendelson, a buddy of Evans’, even initially resisted granting the investigators subpoena power.
While the investigators ultimately got this power, they didn’t use it. Evans’ clients faced no consequences for refusing to speak with the investigators. (One client, former EagleBank CEO Ron Paul, brazenly claimed that as a Maryland resident he was outside of DC’s jurisdiction.) And Evans’ only client who agreed to be interviewed, Lindner, wasn’t even placed under oath.
Evans’ clients greased the palms of a top official who took official acts benefitting many of them. (When people of color do this it’s called bribery. And they go to jail.) Yet not one of them was asked a single question under oath by Council investigators.
Nor was Evans, which even caught the court reporter off guard. “May I ask the deponent to raise their right hand, please?” she asked Evans at the start of the first of his four interviews. But before Evans could be sworn in, lead investigator Steve Bunnell jumped in. “We’re not going to do it [under oath],” Bunnell said. “Unless you’d like to,” he kindly offered Evans.
Bunnell is with O’Melveny and Myers, a private law firm Chairman Mendelson tapped to carry out the Evans investigation. Mendelson chose them “[r]ather than relying upon the independent D.C. inspector general, D.C. attorney general or Board of Ethics and Government Accountability,” wrote the Post’s Colby King, who noted the firm’s substantial work with President Trump.
The Council/O’Melveny investigation, which cost taxpayers $250,000, was carefully curated. It didn’t examine one day more than a federal inquiry already underway, and it didn’t unearth any new accomplices of note despite access to years of Evans’ emails and texts. The investigation was designed to excise Evans alone, not his clients – who spread their generosity around.
Lindner, for example, is a major donor to Mendelson. In 2018 both Lindner and his company gave $1,500 (the max allowed) to Mendelson’s 2018 reelection campaign. Eight other Lindners (presumably related) did likewise, five on the same day, for a 2018 Lindner-family total of $15,000 for Mendelson. (The Lindners have an interesting habit of donating the same amount, to the same candidate, around the same time.)
To lead the ad-hoc committee investigating Evans, Mendelson tapped another top recipient of Lindner largesse. For her 2018 reelection Councilmember Mary Cheh received $500 (the max allowed for ward races) from Forge and seven Lindners, for a total of $4,000. The next year as ad-hoc chair, Cheh skillfully zeroed in on Evans, not his cronies.
Mayor Bowser also received significant Lindner money. Nine Lindners donated a total of $20,500 to her 2018 reelection, with $12,000 of that total coming on a single day.
One of those donors was Rusty’s wife, Miriam “Mimsy” Lindner, a DC player in her own right. In 2019 she termed off of the Events DC board. The quasi-public body gets over $100 million a year in tax dollars, and oversees a number of DC venues, including DC Armory, where Colonial is the parking vendor.
The Lindners’ local donations reflect DC’s Democratic power structure, but nationally the family’s political giving disproportionately goes to Republicans.
With control of the US Senate up for grabs in 2020 the Lindners poured money into the key state of Georgia. On September 27, 2019, then-Senator David Perdue (R-GA) received $300 from Mimsy and $2,800 from Tad, Colonial’s 93-year-old co-founder. Three days later all four of Mimsy’s and Rusty’s kids gave the Perdue campaign $2,700 each.
Rusty meanwhile contributed $45,000 to The Georgia Action Fund. The PAC, which boosted Perdue, also received $10,000 from Forge in November 2020, on the same day Tad’s revocable trust donated $5,000. (Tad passed away the following month.)
All told the Lindners contributed at least $73,900 to keep Perdue’s seat and the US Senate in Republican hands.
It’s been almost three years since we first heard about a federal investigation into Evans, two-and-a-half years since the FBI raided Evans’ Georgetown home, and nearly two years since Evans’ stepped down from the Council.
In the interim the Post hasn’t done a single story on whatever happened (or maybe is still happening) to the federal investigation of Evans. With no pressure to hold Evans to account, his clients are also off the hook – even though they’re just as culpable.
“[T]hose who grease the palms of public officials have as much to answer for as the greasy-palmed officials themselves.” The Post wrote that, but in regards to a Black mayor. The paper’s standard doesn’t apply to Evans or his elite clients.
So Rusty Lindner can carry on like nothing’s happened. He’s still atop his family’s empire. And he remains a respected member of the Federal City Council, an influential group of business elites that has outsized sway over city policies.
Tony and Julia were right. Jack Evans isn’t going to jail. Nor are his cronies, of whom Rusty Lindner was just one.
Score one for the old boys’ network.