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Yesterday, former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown stressed to his colleagues in a private meeting that the wrongdoing that led to his resignation was of a private nature, unrelated to his public life, according to several councilmembers present.
Yeah, maybe not so much. Today Brown was charged with a misdemeanor offense related to his 2008 re-election campaign. It was the investigation into that campaign, remember, that led federal authorities to the bank charge fraud that Brown will almost certainly plead guilty to tomorrow.
The new charge brings Brown’s brother, Che Brown, front and center into the media spotlight and raises questions about whether he’ll soon be facing charges of his own. The charge filed today says Kwame allowed Che to open a “side account” and use that account to make campaign cash expenditures higher than the $50 legal limit. The court records don’t name Che, but we know from the Office of Campaign Finance that it’s him.
The lawyer for Che, who runs a sales coaching firm, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
If he is charged, the big question is whether Che will face something as minor as Kwame’s charge or something more serious. An OCF audit found that Che made more than $240,000 off Kwame’s campaign. The money came via a third-party contractor, who would often make payments to Che’s firm the same day the contractor received money from the campaign. The setup with the contractor meant the campaign didn’t have to disclose the payments to his brother, which had become an issue for Brown during his first campaign in 2004. On its face, none of that is illegal. But we don’t yet know what else may investigators may have found.
Che was also a big part of Kwame’s 2010 race for chairman, during which he was very involved in campaign finance matters, according to a former campaign worker. Che would pick up checks from donors, give checks to vendors, help with fundraisers, and deal with issues arising from the Office of Campaign Finance, the former aide says.
Also worth noting: Che pleaded guilty in 1995 to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Court records say Brown used his position as a customer service manager at Citibank “to fraudulently open bank accounts and obtain credit cards.” He used part of the nearly $30,000 that he took in through that trick to buy a 1990 Toyota Celica. Prosecutors note that “when first approached by investigative agents … [Brown] promptly confessed to his full role in the fraud” and that of his co-conspirator. As a result, Brown was able to avoid prison time.
Video via Partners in Learning