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You think you’ve got troubles? Just be glad you’re not At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown‘s campaign.
On the front page of today’s Post Metro section is a story in which the lawyer for Brown’s fired campaign treasurer, Hakim Sutton, says his client drew a salary from the campaign but that Brown ordered Sutton not to report the salary on campaign finance reports in order to make it look the campaign had more cash. Brown fired Sutton this summer after Brown says he discovered that a large amount of campaign funds was missing. Police raided Sutton’s home, but he’s not been charged with any crime.
In a follow-up blog post, the Post notes that Brown’s campaign finance reports “list no direct payments to Sutton, who claims he’s been working for the campaign as its treasurer and senior strategist since last summer.” On previous campaigns, including those of Brown, Sutton has been paid at regular intervals.
Brown campaign spokesman Asher Corson tells the paper that Sutton was responsible for the campaign’s reports and never submitted any invoices that would justify being paid.
In addition to showing no payments to Sutton, Brown’s original campaign report from June 10, 2012, show no payments to any campaign workers at all. But in an amended June 10 report filed after the Office of Campaign Finance conducted an audit, the campaign shows a $6,000 payment to a company owned by Khadijah Tribble, who did field work for the campaign, and a $250 payment to a Jeffrey Burchett, who is listed as a “consultant” from Pittsburgh. (The amended report says of the payment to Tribble: “per audit 6/21/12.” But if that’s when the payment was made, it’s not clear why it would be listed in the June 1o amended report and not the subsequent report. Says Corson: “At the time of the June report, Councilmember Brown did not know whether Ms. Tribble had been paid or not.” )
OCF’s audit found 11 expenditures totaling $12,000 that weren’t initially reported by the campaign. Amended campaign reports show those payments went to staff, advertising, and campaign supplies.
“In our opinion, the failure to disclose each expenditure and report the total sum of all expenditures may represent individual violations of D.C. Official Code,” says OCF.
At a news conference earlier this month, reporters asked Brown how he didn’t notice that nearly $114,000 of campaign money flew out the door. Brown says it was because he wasn’t keeping track of the campaign’s bank statements. But he stressed that he was paying close attention to campaign finance reports.
“All the reports were coming in and clearly the reports we thought were accurate, ” Brown said. He added: “I was looking directly at the campaign finance records…I should have been looking at the bank statements. If I looked at the bank statements I would have seen some confusion.”
Looks like there was plenty of confusion in the campaign finance reports, as well.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery