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D.C. Council member Harry Thomas owes answers on ties to a nonprofit group

Wednesday, October 20, 2010; A16

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE operation of a nonprofit group by D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) should not be dismissed as mere political posturing by a campaign opponent. Mr. Thomas has used his office to promote a nonprofit that has been less than transparent about how it has raised and spent money. This is a serious matter that demands clearer answers from Mr. Thomas as well as an outside review.

Tim Day, the Republican challenging Mr. Thomas in the Nov. 2 election, is focusing attention on an organization created by Mr. Thomas in 2000 called Team Thomas. Mr. Thomas's Web site depicted the group as a "non-profit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development, and youth and senior development program." It is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service and its registration with the D.C. government has twice been revoked. Mr. Thomas said he has done nothing wrong and noted, for instance, that he never claimed the group was registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit entitling donors to a tax deduction.

Mr. Thomas has gone on the offensive, accusing Mr. Day, an accountant who seems to know his way around tax law, of trying to smear him. He also lashed out at us for what he sees as unfair bias. What he hasn't done is disclose who has donated money to this group, how much has been donated or what has become of the money. It's troubling that when we first confronted Mr. Thomas with questions about the group, he told us he had had no involvement with it since taking office in 2007 and that it was pretty much dormant. Yet a May 28, 2008, press release from his council office promoted a golf tournament to raise funds for "Team Thomas SwingAway/DC First Swing, a not-for-profit urban youth program that introduces boys and girls to swing sports."

Mr. Thomas and his attorney, John Ray, said they are closing the organization and will compile a list of donors and expenses to be made public. Mr. Thomas should do so before next month's election, and the D.C. Council, as well as the attorney general, should inquire further.

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