Harry Thomas needs to reveal much more about his nonprofit's funding

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 8:56 PM

THE D.C. COUNCIL'S Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) claimed, not so long ago, that Team Thomas, a nonprofit he formed ostensibly to help city youth, had lain dormant since he became a council member in 2007. That claim is now, apparently, inoperative. Mr. Thomas acknowledged Tuesday that the group has raised and spent more than $200,000 in donations during the time Mr. Thomas has served on the council.

Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas's promise to be transparent about this money is also, apparently, inoperative, so we still don't know who contributed funds or how they were spent. This refusal to provide information that the public so obviously has a right to know is unacceptable. The office of the D.C. attorney general is right to continue to seek reasonable disclosure.

Mr. Thomas, under a court order to produce information by Tuesday, provided the barest of details about the group he founded in 2000. A four-page letter from one of his attorneys reports that from January 2008 to the present, Team Thomas raised $216,159. Most of the money - $188,110 - was raised in 2008. Essentially all was spent during the past three years.

When questions were first raised about the group by his Republican election opponent, Mr. Thomas and his attorney, John Ray, said they were closing out the organization and would make public a list of donors and expenses. At Tuesday's news conference, The Post's Mike DeBonis reports, Mr. Ray said it would violate donors' privacy rights to disclose their identities without approval. Mr. Thomas's other lawyer, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said the city's request did not require an itemized list.

So that leaves the public not knowing whether those providing money to Mr. Thomas were lobbyists or companies with interests in doing city business, although we earlier uncovered evidence that at least two contributors were firms with interests before the city. Also not detailed is how the money was spent, although Mr. Thomas acknowledged Tuesday that he spent some of it on trips out of town for sports-related events to solicit gear for city youth. A golf day camp for young people was held in 2008, and Mr. Thomas said funds were also used for sports equipment and training materials. But information about specific expenditures is lacking - save for the one expenditure we uncovered that showed money donated to Team Thomas was used to print an annual report extolling Mr. Thomas's work as a council member.

Perhaps Mr. Thomas is hoping that he can run out the clock - that Attorney General Peter Nickles, part of the outgoing mayoral administration, will leave office while voters are still in the dark. We would hope that whoever is attorney general will see the need to get answers to these troubling questions.


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