Former Jackson Lee Staffer Owes Back Taxes

Paging Cornbreadd

February 27, 2012

A former chief of staff to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas) owed at least $150,000 in back taxes to the IRS in 2009, records show.

Nat Thomas, who served as Jackson Lee’s chief of staff from May to September 2010, filed his termination financial disclosure with the House Office of Public Records in December 2011, more than a year after the formal deadline.

Thomas listed two tax liabilities incurred in 2009. According to the disclosure form, he owed between $100,001-$250,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, and between $50,001-$100,000 to the state of Maryland.

From 2006 to 2007, Thomas worked in the office of Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) as a staffer on the Financial Services Committee, where he earned an annual salary of $68,000.

It is unclear where Thomas worked after leaving Waters’ office, before being hired by Jackson Lee. His disclosure forms lists "consulting" fees of $12,500 paid by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Laura Murphy & Associates LLC.

Thomas is perhaps best known for his defense of Jackson Lee’s peculiar comments about the country of Vietnam in July 2010.

While discussing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a speech on the House floor, Jackson Lee referenced the Southeast Asian nation, incorrectly stating that it was still divided into two separate countries.

"I stand here asking us to do what we did not in do in Vietnam—was to recognize the valiant and outstanding service of our men and women, and to understand victory had been achieved," she said. "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side."

Thomas explained that Jackson Lee had misspoken.

"No one would expect a member of her seniority to make that kind of statement and think it to be true," he told CBS News, noting that the congresswoman was a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Jackson Lee has a reputation for making colorful statements.

For instance, she compared House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s (R., Wis.) 2012 budget proposal to Hurricane Katrina, and equated the Bush tax cuts to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Additionally, Jackson Lee once inquired if the Mars Pathfinder robot had taken a picture of the flag Neil Armstrong planted there in 1969.

Jackson Lee, a nine-term incumbent who won 70 percent of the vote in 2010, is facing a primary challenge this year from a Houston-area rapper known as Cornbreadd.

Jackson Lee’s office did not return a request for comment.