Nickles: “Harry Thomas is in Big Trouble.”
Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. held a news conference today, probably hoping to put behind him the saga of Team Thomas, his youth sports nonprofit that critics allege is an unregulated slush fund—and which Attorney General Peter Nickles is investigating.
Instead, it looks like we’re on to the next, more interesting chapter.
“Harry Thomas is in big trouble,” is how Nickles began his conversation with LL this afternoon. Nickles had just looked over the documents Thomas and his legal team handed over today.
Three weeks ago, a Superior Court judge had upheld a subpoena Nickles issued for Team Thomas’ financial records. The records Thomas handed over don’t include much in the way of details, like who donated to the nonprofit and how the money was spent. Instead, the documents contain a rough outline of Team Thomas’ finances, including revenues of $216,159 and expenses of $226,783. The bulk of both the fundraising and the expenditures took place in 2008.
Nickles says he’s about to issue another subpoena asking Thomas for a lot more detail about who gave what and how it was spent.
“What you have on its face is a confession, and it’s unlawful solicitation because he was neither licensed by [Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] … nor registered by the IRS,” Nickles said.
Team Thomas said in its documents that Team Thomas was good to go with DCRA in 2007 and 2008, and that “efforts will be made to file reports required by the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act for 2009." The same documents say Team Thomas applied for tax-exempt status from the IRS but changed its mind and “never held itself out” to be a tax-exempt charity.
Thomas’s financial documents might not have had much detail, but the councilmember was more forthcoming about how the nonprofit spent its money at his news conference. Thomas said the organization, which is geared towards getting D.C.’s kids interested in baseball, softball, tennis and golf, spent its money on things like equipment and greens fees. No salaries were paid by Team Thomas.
Thomas also said the nonprofit helped cover costs for trips he made to Atlanta, Florida and Las Vegas, where he went to a sports equipment convention to solicit gear donations for District kids.
Thomas’s lawyer, Fred Cooke Jr., said that if a company had helped pay for Thomas' nonprofit travel and that company had business before the council, then Thomas was required to report that on his financial disclosure forms. Thomas’s financial disclosure forms for the past three years say he’s had no conflict of interest with any company doing business with the District.
But at his news conference today, Thomas showed a video produced by Comcast highlighting the 2007 “First Annual Team Thomas Fore Our Youth Golf Tournament" that Team Thomas put on and the cable giant sponsored. (One lucky tournament winner went home with a six-month "triple play premiere service package" from Comcast.)
Lobbying disclosure forms show that Comcast lobbied Thomas in January of 2007. (Making an appearance in the Comcast video is its main lobbyist, David Wilmot.) So LL's not clear how Comcast could donate to Thomas' nonprofit and lobby him without those facts being disclosed to the public before now.
LL has a call into to Cooke to get some explanation on the financial disclosure form issues and to get a response to Nickles. LL will update as needed.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery