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For former D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown, 2013 was supposed to be a year of redemption. Instead, he’s awaiting sentencing to federal prison after admitting he took bribes while in office.
Brown started the year campaigning to get back on the Council after badly losing a re-election bid in 2012. But he wasn’t just politicking: The son of the late former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown also found time to nag what turned out to be undercover FBI agents into paying him more money, court records show.
Brown thought the agents plying him with cash were construction contractors trying to get an advantage in winning bids for city and private projects. Court records show Brown made big promises but delivered little, if anything, of real value. But that didn’t stop him from routinely asking the feds for a “piece of a piece” of what their contracts could be worth.
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While the FBI gave Brown tens of thousands of dollars, they weren’t an unlimited ATM. In late January, after they had rebuffed his repeated requests for more money, Brown complained to an associate: “I can’t spend any more political capital. They’re not really doing anything to help me do that.”
Several weeks later, in mid-March, Brown met the undercover agents at the Marriott Wardman Park. After he took another $20,000 in payments (cash stuffed into Washington Nationals and Washington Pigskins merchandise), the feds told Brown he was busted.
But the public wouldn’t find out until much later. In the meantime, Brown continued to campaign for two weeks, acting as if nothing was wrong.
“Clearly, this is something that I enjoy, which is public service even with all the drama that comes with it,” Brown told the audience at a debate in Ward 8 just two days after his own personal drama went down.
In early April, Brown dropped out of the race, citing “very important personal and family matters that require my immediate attention.”
It wasn’t until June that the feds filed charges. And they’ve been in no hurry to put Brown in prison, delaying his sentencing until next year.
A possible reason: Brown is spilling secrets related to the ongoing investigation into D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson, the man at the center of the federal probe of Mayor Vince Gray. Brown admitted to taking an illegal $20,000 campaign contribution from an unnamed businessman, who people familiar with the case say is Thompson.
Whether Brown has said more is unknown—at least for now.