By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 23, 2010; 9:49 PM
The D.C. Attorney General's Office is requesting that Council member Harry Thomas Jr. voluntarily turn over documents and other information about a nonprofit 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 office's Public Advocacy Section, wrote to Thomas (D-Ward 5) Thursday requesting information on "Team Thomas" by Tuesday or risk a subpoena.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that Thomas has been soliciting money for Team Thomas, which he bills as a "nonprofit organization for social change, citizen empowerment, community development and youth and senior development program." But the group is not registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt nonprofit group. 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Team Thomas had been registered locally with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the registration was revoked last September.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 Republican opponent in the Nov. 2 election, has accused Thomas of using the organization as a "slush fund." Thomas, who frequently holds fundraisers 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 as well as information about 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," states the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The 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 group, 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 beat Day on Nov. 2, Thomas appears to be gearing up for a possible run for citywide office.
In recent weeks, he has attended nearly all of Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's town hall meetings, which has been viewed as a sign that he is considering running for an at-large seat.
A special election will be held in the spring for the at-large seat that would become vacant if, as expected, Council member Kwame Brown (D) wins the council chairman's race.