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At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown has good reason to dislike Max Brown, a former official in the Anthony A. Williams administration, now a fundraiser for Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Max Brown, after all, tried to keep him off of the D.C. Council. In 2004, Max Brown assisted bumbling incumbent At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil in a failed attempt to rebuff an electoral challenge from Kwame Brown.
As a political consultant, Max Brown got a huge payday from a campaign that featured personal attacks, including two negative mail pieces in the final weeks before the election—one linking Kwame Brown to Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr.
Now that Kwame Brown is chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, which is considering four Fenty nominees to the coveted D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, it’s payback time.
On Monday, the agenda for the committee hearing on the nominations listed three of the four Fenty picks for the sports panel. The missing name was Max Brown.
Kwame Brown is diplomatic when it comes to why Max Brown got the snub this week. He claims the 2004 campaign is ancient history and all sins are forgiven. “I don’t have any problems with Max Brown; he’s a great guy and has some great ideas,” says Kwame Brown. “But I do need to uphold my commitment.”
The commitment, according to the committee chair, is to boost the number of women on all D.C. boards and commissions. Currently, two women serve on the nine-member sports panel. Opposing Fenty’s all-male slate is exactly the signal he wants to send about the kind of nominations that go through his committee.
The only question is why Kwame Brown decided that his old political enemy Max Brown should be the man to step aside for the women. “When Fenty sent down the nominations, Max was the last one I talked to,” explains Kwame Brown.
The separate bills nominating Fenty pals Vince Morris, Matthew Cutts, and Max Brown were introduced Jan. 12. The nomination of Ben Soto, Fenty’s campaign treasurer, was actually the last one in the queue. His bill was introduced Jan. 16, according to the D.C. Council Web site.
Fenty’s spokesperson, Carrie Brooks, says it is difficult to comment on the matter, considering that Kwame Brown hasn’t formally requested that Max Brown’s name be withdrawn.
For a guy once known as Williams’ hatchet man, Max Brown offers a muted response to queries about the death of his nomination.
“I look forward to helping the mayor implement his vision, which I share, for the sports commission and working with the council, Chairman Brown and other stakeholders to ensure that the public gets maximum value and benefit from sports and entertainment in the District,” Max Brown writes in an e-mail. “[C]ouncilmember Brown and I didn’t get a chance to meet until Friday [Jan. 26],” Max Brown writes. “I think it’s just a scheduling issue, from my perspective.”
Kwame Brown shares that perspective. As chairman, he holds the power to schedule which bills come up for consideration. Call it political death by being left off the to-do list. The bill with Max Brown’s name on it was the one he chose to hold off on until Fenty offers a female nominee for the commission.
Kwame Brown seems to get awfully serious about gender equality whenever Max Brown comes up for a slot.
Back in 2005, the councilmember voted against Max Brown when he was nominated by Williams to serve on the Washington Convention Center Authority Board of Directors. He was then a lowly freshman with no committee chairmanship. His only platform for pet causes was when he was called on to speechify prior to votes.
“This vote is not about Max Brown,” Kwame Brown said at the time. “It’s about how do we create equality in the District of Columbia.” That slap came despite a promise from Mayor Williams that the next nominee to the then exclusively male convention board club would be a woman.
Other councilmembers weren’t so hard on the money-raising maven. Max Brown’s nomination was approved 10-3.
“That’s a position I hold dearly,” says Kwame Brown of his ladies-first pledge. “Sometimes we are just in [a] stronger position to do something about it than at other times.”
For years, reporters on the fire beat could afford to drag their heels in arriving at the scene of a D.C. blaze. They could generally count on some help from Alan Etter, the spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
Etter would get to the scene with video and still cameras, and he’d be happy to share his work.
But in early January, Etter learned that he would not be hired back by the incoming Fenty administration. His previously busy cell phone told the tale: “Please don’t leave a message on this phone. I no longer work for the Fire Department, so please do not call about any Fire Department matters.” His departure came as a surprise to many reporters and lots of folks at fire headquarters who considered him the finest PR guy in the D.C. government.
Along with dozens of others, Etter was essentially fired when no one from the Fenty camp got in touch with him before Jan. 2. At the Fire Department, “No one [who serves at the pleasure of the mayor] was extended, because as an agency, we wanted to lead it in a different direction,” says City Administrator Dan Tangherlini.
But after reviewing Etter’s service, Fenty has reversed the call. Next week, Etter will be back in uniform at the Vermont Avenue NW Fire and EMS headquarters, answering calls from reporters. “[Interim Fire] Chief [Brian] Lee called me and said we want you to come to work at the Fire Department,” says Etter, who claims he received a promise that the city will find a newer vehicle to replace his department car, which is held together by duct tape.
Tangherlini says Etter’s temporary banishment was a simple oversight. “For the most part, you make the right choices,” says Tangherlini. “And maybe there are some mistakes along the way.”
NEWCOMERS STAY HOME
The D.C. Young Democrats aren’t exactly your powerhouse organization in the city. The political club for the under-35 crowd usually holds its sparsely attended meetings in the John A. Wilson Building. Some officers get a few perks like spots at national conventions and trips to fun gatherings.
But the Jan. 25 meeting to elect officers drew a larger than expected crowd—and an attempted coup d’état.
Northwest resident Jeremy Paul Gallagher, 23, appeared at the meeting ready to make a serious bid for the presidency of the group. He was joined by a gaggle of friends—probably enough to make the unknown el Jefe of the organization.
“He brought a bunch of people from around the same age range who were not registered voters in D.C.,” observes Desi Deshane, who was later elected national committeeman. “A few were from the local colleges. A lot worked on the Hill,” he says. The overwhelming majority of Gallagher’s supporters were white.
According to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Gallagher is a registered voter. He’s been on the voter rolls as a Democrat since Jan. 23.
Why did Gallagher and other newcomers want to take over the organization? They cited some pretty basic grievances, according to those who attended the meeting. No one returned their calls. Efforts to join the group were rebuffed. The organization doesn’t even have a Web site. “That seems out of sync with an organization calling itself the Young Democrats,” says Gallagher.
But there was one little problem for Gallagher: The organization’s rules require that anyone running for office be a registered Democrat in the District for 30 days. The same goes for voting privileges for his hand-picked insurgents, a complication the candidate hadn’t considered. “I think it is generally accepted if you live in Washington, D.C., and are a registered Democrat, you should be able to participate in the organization,” says Gallagher. “I think everyone has different reasons for being registered where they are.”
And therein lies a little lesson for Mr. Gallagher on why the D.C. Young Democrats might be a little peeved about the out-of-towners coming in to bitch about their lame outfit. All those kids who are registered to vote somewhere else have something young folks registered in D.C. do not: a vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
After nearly two hours of discussion over who is an official Young Democrat and some input from the group’s legal adviser, Gallagher was ruled ineligible to run for president.
The question of whether the newbies could vote proved to be irrelevant.
“The people who didn’t end up voting left long before the voting occurred,” says Gallagher. “At some point, any reasonable person would leave.”
But the young Dems aren’t ready to discard someone as motivated as Gallagher just yet. He’ll be given the chance to help steer the organization in a new direction if he really wants to. “Nobody ran for vice president,” says Deshane. “So we appointed him interim vice president.”
•In a one-party town like D.C., it’s easy to assume those coughing up the big bucks on a campaign are big-time Democrats. But for the first major fundraiser of his Ward 4 D.C. Council race, Michael Brown clearly doesn’t mind if a headliner of his event has a bit of rightward tilt.
One of the hosts of his Jan. 30 fundraiser, Zdenka Gast, has piled up a strange résumé for someone with an interest in the politics of Ward 4.
Gast, a Croatian-born American, hit the national spotlight in the late 1990s when she served as spokesperson for Enron in Croatia, where the energy giant was cutting a sweetheart deal with the government.
If being a mouthpiece for Enron isn’t good enough fodder for Brown’s opponents, Gast also contributed $1,000 to the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush and coughed up $2,000 in 2003 and in 2004 for N.Y. Congressman Thomas Reynolds, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who was barely reelected, largely because of his lack of action during the Rep. Mark Foley page scandal.
And unless Gast recently moved, she’s not exactly a D.C. fixture. Federal Election Commission records list her address as Grand Island, N.Y. She has another residence in Palm Beach, Fla. According to Brown, Gast has a residence in Georgetown as well.
Brown says it wouldn’t be right to call Gast a GOP loyalist. “Like a lot of businesspeople, she supports the party in charge,” he says. “When Clinton was in power, she was a big Democratic supporter,” says Brown, who stresses that the days when people expected all political money to come from D.C. addresses are long gone. “Folks can be jealous if they want. I gotta get money where I can.”