GOP accuses D.C. Council member Thomas of raising money for 'fake' nonprofit

By Tim Craigand Mike DeBonis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 10:03 PM

District Republicans are accusing D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) of raising money for a "slush fund" that he depicts as a nonprofit group even though it is not registered with the IRS and is not in good standing with the city government.

Tim Day, an accountant who is challenging Thomas in the Nov. 2 general election, said the incumbent has been raising money for his Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC program for years but has not been disclosing who his donors are or where the money goes.

"This is a fake organization," Day said. "If he has truly received money and donations and has given it back to his community, he should be more than willing to provide documentation."

On Thomas's Web site, he describes Team Thomas as a "non-profit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development and youth and senior development program."

Day, backed by the D.C. Republican Committee, supplied reporters Thursday with a copy of a letter Thomas wrote on his council stationery in May 2008 promoting the organization as a "not-for-profit urban youth program that introduces boys and girls to swing sports."

Thomas's organization, which he created in 2000, is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit. The Web site for the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which certifies nonprofits locally, says Team Thomas's license has been revoked.

In an interview, Thomas accused Day and the GOP of trying to smear him, noting that he and his family have a long history of community service.

"They are on a very useless fishing expedition," he said.

Thomas, well known in Northeast for coaching and mentoring young athletes, said he never suggested the organization was registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit, which would entitle donors to a tax deduction.

Thomas said Team Thomas is registered with the DCRA. He added that he "explored the possibility'' of seeking tax-exempt status for the group but decided not to because he plans to close the organization and start another one.

According to DCRA officials, Thomas's certification was revoked in September 2009 because it failed to submit a brief outlining the organization's board and officers. The certification had been revoked twice before for similar reasons, officials said.

Thomas and his attorney, John Ray, countered that DCRA is making "a mistake."

They released to The Washington Post copies of a certificate and canceled checks, which they say show that Team Thomas paid $185 in October 2008 to restore the certification.

Ray said the certificate is valid for two years.

But the documents indicate the two-year renewal was retroactive to September 2007, resulting in the revocation last year. Adding to the confusion, the canceled checks are dated for October 2009, a year after they were allegedly written.

Thomas routinely solicits support for the organization through events he promotes from his council office, including an annual benefit at Langston Golf Course in Northeast.

Because the group is not a registered federal nonprofit, it is not required to report its fundraising activities.

On Thursday, Thomas said he was compiling a list of donors and expenses and will make it public in the coming weeks.

"It's not an astronomical amount. I have never received a salary," Thomas said. "It was for programming to sponsor young people's activities."

Day and the GOP are also taking aim at Thomas for paying his wife a consulting fee out of his campaign account.

According to campaign finance records, the campaign paid Diane Thomas about $4,500 this year.

Thomas defended the payments, saying his wife helps run the campaign and designed leaflets and brochures.

"My wife can work legally for my campaign," Thomas said. "What is wrong with that?"

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