Loose Lips Daily: Audigate Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Sulaimon Brown Finishes Testifying, Thank God Photos: Sulaimon and Harry Thomas Jr. The Future is So Bright He's Got to Wear Shades Harry Thomas Jr: "I'm Willing to Risk Everything I Have" Sulaimania D.C.: Harry Thomas Jr. Used Earmark Money to Buy Audi SUV Read: The Lawsuit Against HTJ
Good morning sweet readers! LL spent much of yesterday staring at the small glowing screen of his iPhone, just like nature intended, right? Wrong! LL still has a headache. News time:
Audigate: Sorry, Sulaimon, you're not the lead item today. The lead is the world of pain Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. now finds himself in after being sued by Attorney General Irv Nathan for allegedly using city funds to buy himself an Audi SUV and go golfing at the spectacular Peeble Beach golf club (LL drove by once, it's gorgeous). Silent Irv's lawsuit is a big surprise; LL always assumed the main thrust behind the A.G.'s investigation of Thomas' non-profit group Team Thomas was to see whether Thomas had improperly been taking money on the sly from businesses with issues before the D.C. Council. Turns out there were plenty of bizzes giving money to Team Thomas who have affairs before the legislative body, but Nathan said he found no evidence of quid pro quo. What the A.G.'s office allegedly did find somewhere along the way, however, is soooo much worse.
Essentially, Nathan says Thomas steered more than $300,000 of an earmark for youth sports into his own pocket. Thomas took to the Wilson Building front steps to say it ain't so, he's not stepping down, and he'll soon be vindicated. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors and the FBI said yesterday they launched an investigation into Team Thomas before Nathan referred the matter to them yesterday. Yikes. Nathan's civil lawsuit has to potential for fines; a federal case has the potential for prison. You may read more details of Nathan's lawsuit and Thomas' rebuttal here in the Post's A1, above the fold, story, which also notes how this is the latest episode of the council's seemingly endless "embarrassing political controversies." The Examiner has a handy step-by-step guide of how Thomas allegedly used the money to buy the Audi. (He only got $9,000 on a trade in for a 2004 Dodge Durango? What a horrible deal, though that is a horrible truck.) And see for yourself which reporter is the best amateur photographer as Mark Segraves, Mike DeBonis, and Freeman Klopott all ran like their pants were on fire to get a picture of Thomas and his attorney Fred Cooke Jr. exiting the Audi before the presser, but sadly only got a picture of the Audi itself. (Leave it to the pros, gentlemen.) More after the jump.
AFTER THE JUMP: Team Thomas Losers; Team Thomas Winners; Sulaimania...
Yesterday's Losers: Thomas: The wheels of justice move a lot slower than those of public opinion. Thomas will have to move quickly if he's going to convince his colleagues and his constituents he's not the sleazy guy portrayed in Nathan's 27-page complaint. Once Wilson Building wag's diagnosis of Thomas' future: "burnt toast." Also, two of Thomas' golfing pals from one of the non-profits allegedly used as a pass-through are cooperating with the A.G.'s office. Friendship=over. Mayor Vince Gray: This is more bad news for Hizzoner. Thomas is a close ally, and Gray who would often talk on the campaign trail about what a shame it would be if Thomas got less than 75 percent of the vote in his re-election bid. The Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation: If the A.G.'s lawsuit is true, then the CYITC sure did a crummy job overseeing District funds. Thomas' council staff: Nathan says they submitted falsified records as part of the kick back scheme. The kids: 500 or so, mostly from Thomas' Ward 5, were supposed to benefit from the earmark; according to the A.G., they did not. D.C. Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown: He's got to decided whether to keep Thomas on as head of the council's highly coveted economic development committee. Either way, folks are going to be mad. Brown is scheduled to meet with his colleagues today to talk about Thomas' future.
And the Winners Are: Nathan: Who said this guy is the mayor's patsy? Nathan showed he isn't afraid to drop the hammer. WaPo editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao: She's owned this story since day one and has been ahead by a mile, including on raising questions about the Audi. Fittingly, she penned another blistering editorial for today. "Mr. Thomas says he won’t resign from the council; clearly, he should reconsider. But, then, that would require him to show something that has been sadly lacking from his council tenure: consideration for the people he is supposed to serve." Ouch. Former Attorney General Peter Nickles: Was his initial investigation of Team Thomas politically motivated? Well, probably, but if he hadn't dragged Thomas to court (twice) to force him to hand over records, all this other stuff might not have come out. Republican Ward 5 candidate Tim Day and DCGOP executive director Paul Craney: Their initial investigation got the ball rolling. Now, if only Day had managed to get more than 4 votes. Kwame Brown: Never let a crisis go to waste, Kwame. Brown could use Thomas' trouble to increase his power base in the council. Audi: Move over Lincoln, there's a new luxury SUV that's getting a ton of free press thanks to District pols.
Sulaimania: It's not like you don't already know this, but yesterday Sulaimon Brown came, he wore sunglasses, he argued, he accused, he left. The Post goes with a giant picture of Brown's face, complete with the sunglasses he didn't take off the entire time, on the front page of the Metro section. The accompanying story's most interesting nugget: "[Brown] said that he received an unknown amount of cash and two money orders — one for $500 and another for $150 — during a fundraiser for Gray (D) at Eatonville, a restaurant, after a Ward 4 debate Aug. 4. He said Gray asked him to step outside with him. 'While we were outside, he thanked me,”Brown told council members. ''I think Howard has something for you,’'' Brown said Gray told him, referring to campaign consultant Howard L. Brooks. Brown said Brooks gave him the money." Postie Marc Fisher notes that witnesses who wear sunglasses are not trustworthy. WAMU's Patrick Madden correctly notes that despite the many many many hours of testimony, the truth remains elusive. "I don't think we'll ever really know what happened," says Councilmember David Catania. There's plenty more media coverage out there, but ask yourself, haven't you had enough? (Says the guy who is writing a Sulaimon column for Thursday.)
Tommy Wells, Winner: Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells must have had his mojo working over the weekend, because a last-minute change to the redistricting plan has things coming up Tommy.
In Other News: A D.C. police officer charged with first-degree murder will be held without bond. Acting DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson to Bill Turque: teachers are making up the curriculum, but don’t worry, that’ll change soon. DCPS will also reinstate two blind teachers fired in 2008 and pay them $450,000 in back wages. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to help “make the Mall more ‘with it.’” Ten new workers probably can’t fix all of Metro’s broken escalators. Can Walmart revitalize a corner of D.C.?
Gray sked: Presser at 1:30; Sister-city signing with Rome at 4:30; jazz at the Turkish Embassy at 7:15.
Council sked: Thirteenth legislative meeting, Room 500 JAWB, 10 a.m.