- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2011

Before D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. faced a $1 million civil suit filed by the D.C. attorney general over questionable fundraising and spending by his not-a-charity Team Thomas, he faced another civil lawsuit seeking to compel him to pay back a modest sum of a few thousand dollars in student loans.

The Washington Times reported in March that a U.S. District Court judge had reinstated a suit filed in 2006 and dismissed in 2009 attempting to force the Ward 5 Democrat to make good on $16,000 in years-old loans and the collected interest and penalties.

The student-loan case suggests a valuable lesson to be learned in light of disclosures made as part of the Team Thomas case.

Here’s some context assembled from court papers filed in the student-loan case along with information culled from court filings in the Team Thomas case:

March 10, 2006: Case filed to recover $16,000 in student loans, interest, penalties from Mr. Thomas.

April 8, 2006:Mr. Thomas is served.

Jan. 2, 2007:Mr. Thomas sworn in as council member.

April 16, 2007:Mr. Thomas charges $690 to Team Thomas credit card at Love nightclub.

July 10, 2007: Student-loan case continued indefinitely.

Oct. 29, 2007:Mr. Thomas charges $1,185 to Team Thomas credit card at Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas.

March 10, 2008: Status hearing. Neither Mr. Thomas nor his lawyer (whom the court papers note was not a member of the D.C. Bar) show up.

April 2, 2008:Mr. Thomas charges $2,669 to Team Thomas credit card at Gogo Vacations.

April 28, 2009:Mr. Thomas charges $1,073 to Team Thomas credit card at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.

June 1, 2009: Student-loan case dismissed for lack of activity.

Sept. 12, 2009:Mr. Thomas uses $58,575 in charitable grant funds paid through a for-profit company he controlled to buy a 2008 Audi Q7 4.2 Premium Quattro sport utility vehicle.

March 2010: Student-loan case reinstated.

So the lesson seems, instead of using money collected through donations from unlawful solicitations and charitable grants raised by a purported nonprofit without tax-exempt status and other funds secretly diverted to a for-profit company under your control to buy luxury vehicles, trips, meals and other things of value, pay off your student loans.

Substantive denials

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray last week flatly rejected key points of Sulaimon Brown’s much-anticipated testimony.

His rationale to dismiss tales of a furtive exchange and a cash handoff outside the popular Eatonville Restaurant in Northwest in August: The street where the minor 2010 mayoral candidate says he met Mr. Gray was entirely too public a place to make the story plausible.

“There’s no truth to it,” Mr. Gray said at his weekly press briefing. “I mean the logic of it doesn’t even hold - have you been to Eatonville?

“To step outside and have a conversation like this, whispering, it’s preposterous,” Mr. Gray continued. “And there were other preposterous statements that were made as well.”

We expect he was referring to what Mr. Brown described as potentially damning money orders he said can be traced to a Gray campaign operative. But Mr. Gray instead focused on Mr. Brown’s mirrored sunglasses and his combative demeanor during the hearing.

“The testimony itself and the appearance of the witness were prima facie evidence to me,” he said, garnering laughter in the press briefing room.

We continue to wonder if it will be as easy to dismiss the accusations as it will be to dismiss the accuser.

Web savvy

We may have to bookmark the U.S. Senate website of Mark R. Warner.

Last month he added a page to his site for people to pay tribute to the highly secretive Virginia-based SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden. More than 1,200 people responded.

It was a pretty simple idea, but a pretty good one.

Last week, he added a widget with three numbers that display U.S. debt growth in real time.

The new feature shows the U.S. debt ($14.3 trillion), U.S. debt per citizen ($46,058) and the U.S. population (311.5 million).

The Virginia Democrat says the hypnotizing display serves “as a reminder of the need to tackle our deficits and debt in a fiscally responsible way.”

He is the first Senate Democrat to add the indicators to his website, according to his office.

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