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D.C. Attorney General launches probe of council member Harry Thomas

Tim Craig

The D.C. Attorney General's Office is requesting that council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) voluntarily turn over documents and other information about a non-profit organization he operates that is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service or in good standing with city regulators.

Attorney General Peter J. Nickles and Bennett Rushkoff, chief of the attorney general's Public Advocacy Section, sent Thomas a letter Thursday requesting information on "Team Thomas" by Tuesday or risk a subpoena. The letter appears to be the start of a formal investigation into Thomas.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Thomas has been soliciting money for Team Thomas, which he bills as a "non-profit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development and youth and senior development program." But the organization is not registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt non-profit. Although Team Thomas had been registered locally with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the registration was revoked last September.

Tim Day, Thomas's GOP opponent in the Nov. 2 general election, has accused Thomas of using the organization as a "slush fund." Thomas, who frequently holds fundraising events for the group, has been unable to provide a list of his donors or expenses.

Rushkoff is requesting that Thomas turn over the names of the organization's executives and accounts. The attorney general's office also wants Thomas to over information about Team Thomas's donors, employees and their salaries, and its beneficiaries.

"The purpose of this letter is to request that information and documents needed for an investigation of certain charitable organizations be produced voluntarily as to avoid the need for a subpoena," the letter states, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

Thomas, who has been a frequent critic of Nickles, said in a statement Friday that he was concerned about the short period in which to respond to the request but that he intends to comply. "It is, and shall remain, my prime objective to be as open and transparent as possible in all my public programs and activities," he wrote.

In an interview last week, Thomas defended his organization, saying he never suggested it was registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit, which would entitle donors to a tax deduction.

Thomas and his attorney, John Ray, also argued that DCRA should not have revoked his registration because, they say, it is still in good standing.

But the prospect of an investigation could affect Thomas's future political plans. Although he is expected to easily beat Day in the general election, Thomas appears to be gearing up for a possible run for citywide office.

In recent weeks, Thomas has attended nearly all of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's town hall meetings, which has been widely viewed as a sign he is considering running for the at-large seat. A special election will be held this spring for the at-large seat that will become vacant after Council member Kwame Brown (D) steps down to become the chairman of the council.

Questions about Thomas's non-profit could also turn into a minor headache for Gray, who has close political ties to Thomas.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post editorial board called on Gray, the Democratic nominee for mayor, and the council to launch an investigation into Thomas. A grassroots organization trying to get voters to write in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in the general election are also using the questions about Thomas's organization to drum up support for their effort.

But the attorney general's office inquiry could also raise political questions. Thomas has been a frequent critic of Attorney General Nickles.

-- Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  | October 22, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election  
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I am not opposed to checking on these things. As someone who is involved with non-profits I think it is important that they follow all the applicable laws.

I just hope that this isn't another one of Nickles vendettas like the trying to get Cora Masters Barry out of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.

I would ask that instead of making a major press deal about this that Harry Thomas just get all his papers together and make sure he is up to date. There is a provision to file late and pay any penalties if the proper filings weren't done but the income and expenses are all above board and accounted for.

Posted by: peterdc | October 22, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

This is why I'm voting for Fenty

Posted by: theleakdc202 | October 22, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles, Tim Craig...

This is why I'm voting for Gray

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 22, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

This is why Peter Nickles will be unemployed on Jan 1, 2011.

Nickles-- the people's AG-- clandestinely pays Fenty's frat boys, Skinner and Banneker Venture, while being investigated for fraud. Someone needs to launch a probe into Nickles based on the abuse of his fiduciary duties as DC taxpayers’ AG!

Posted by: GoldCoast | October 22, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse


How can you declare such foolishness. Fenty, Nickels and the Post have consistently ignored, covered-up and just plain lied about the shading deals made during Fenty's time in office.

Write in Fenty but do not LIE ABOUT THE REASON YOU WILL WASTE YOUR VOTE. You will vote for Fenty in an attempt to maintain your way of life.

Posted by: guylady201001 | October 22, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

So all of you just decided to vote for Gray when he launched this investigation?

Posted by: kseamen | October 22, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like payback on the way out. I guess Fenty tolerated Thomas before, now, why should he?

Posted by: gbooksdc | October 22, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Lack of IRS recognition doesn't mean non-compliance. It just means the IRS has not reviewed the organization.

Non-profits risk violating their status when they are actually for-profit organizations... like running a used car lot as an antique vehicle club.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 22, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

GoldCoast wrote: "Someone needs to launch a probe into Nickles based on the abuse of his fiduciary duties as DC taxpayers’ AG!"


Posted by: nan_lynn | October 23, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Wow! No justice no peace! Get out the vote say yea, to GRAY!

Posted by: drfields | October 23, 2010 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Thomas has zero viability as a city wide candidate. Yet he will probably run, and possibly win because the other Council members will feel like they have to support him.

This system is a little bit broken. Why does a sitting Councilmember need to run for another Council position when they are already on the Council?

I would say "NO" to Thomas. He hasn't done anything of note while representing Ward 5.

Posted by: LukasWP | October 23, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post is looking for any spider under a rock, seeking revenge against people and organizations who opposed Fenty.

Posted by: topryder1 | October 23, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Did the Peaceaholics submit information per the request of Councilmember Yvette Alexander? Did Nickles come down on that organization? Shouldn't Nickles be on easy street until January 2011? Why bother?

Posted by: ASH0927 | October 23, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Nickles just need to go! He needs to go away and don't return! The entire Fenty Administration needs to go! They are the most vindictive, conniving group of people. I pray that they just leave. Peter Nickles OUT!!!

Posted by: beautifiedone | October 23, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

@ Ash@0927 CO-SIGN!!!! I can hear God Daddy Nickles as he reads your comment "Watcha talking about Willis".

Posted by: thelildiva4u | October 23, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Under what specific statutory authority is Nickles conducting this investigation?

Posted by: Sunni11 | October 24, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze me that people in DC have such blinders on and are so conspiracy minded, as long as the conspiracy plays into their idea about who is BAAAD and who is GOOOOD.

This article is about alleged misrepresentations on the part of Thomas. I don't care if Nickels, Fenty, and everyone else was out to get him, if you simply TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS and not call yourself a nonprofit when you aren't, problem solved. Same goes for you Cora Masters Barry, take care of your business, file the appropriate documentation ON TIME (like other nonprofits in DC do every day), and you won't have to worry about people being out to get you, they will have no ammunition. And for your ex-husband, how about you pay your taxes by April 15 just like I do, then you too can stop talking about federal prosecutors being out to get you. You should try it, it's very liberating.

I think my enemies are out to get me too, but I pay my taxes (in full and early), vote, make sure I don't have illegal workers in my home, follow the law, pay my parking tickets, and generally behave like a moral, responsible citizen. It cuts down on the investigations in droves.

What is what the persecution complex in this town, paranoid much?

Posted by: blackandgreen | October 24, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Write in Fenty but do not LIE ABOUT THE REASON YOU WILL WASTE YOUR VOTE. You will vote for Fenty in an attempt to maintain your way of life.

Posted by: guylady201001

I, for one WILL write in Fenty in an attempt to maintain MY way of life, and to continue improving the lives of others, especially children in DCPS, who Fenty benefitted greatly. I have no interest in bringing DC backwards, as Vince Gray will do.

If you value process over progress and paralysis by analysis, by all means, go ahead and vote Gray.

Change makes people uncomfortable, and Fenty paid for that in the primary. Ironically, Gray's base will be the people hurt most when he fails.

Posted by: keithstg | October 25, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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