WHEN WE RAISED questions last October about his fundraising for a nonprofit, D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) dismissed the subject as “a useless fishing expedition” — but promised to reveal information about the group’s finances and activities. That information was never forthcoming, and now we know at least some of the reasons. An investigation by the city’s attorney general has produced evidence that Mr. Thomas solicited private donations and diverted taxpayer dollars not, as he claimed, to help city youth but for his personal and political benefit.
“Willful, intentional and knowing” is how D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan characterized Mr. Thomas’s funneling of some $316,000 in public funds and more than $80,000 from private donors to entities he controlled for, among other things, the purchase of a luxury sport-utility vehicle, golfing vacations in Pebble Beach and elsewhere, and publication of a brochure extolling his public service. According to a civil action filed by the attorney general that seeks to recover the city’s money, funds earmarked by the D.C. Council in 2007 for “youth baseball programs” went to the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation, a nonprofit organization that administers grant funds for the District, which, at Mr. Thomas’s direction, passed them on to the Langston 21st Century Foundation. The foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to youth educational programs, secretly paid most of the money to Mr. Thomas through his nonprofit (Team Thomas) and for-profit (HLT Team Thomas/Swingaway LLC, a.k.a. HLT Development) corporations. According to the attorney general, Mr. Thomas had his staff falsify reports on the money’s use.