Oh boy, add one more to the list of District officials who are being scrutinized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The feds are probing Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown‘s 2008 campaign finances, an Office of Campaign Finance attorney said today at a hearing before the Board of Election and Ethics. OCF general counsel William SanFord (yes, that’s how he spells his last name) says the feds have visited OCF’s offices and taken records related to Brown’s campaign.
What might have prompted the scrutiny from federal prosecutors? “We think there’s criminal activity here,” BOEE Chairman Togo West told reporters after the hearing.
A spokesman for the USAO confirmed that the office is continuing its “review” of Brown’s campaign, but declined to say when that review started. Mayor Vince Gray and Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. are also currently being looked at by the USAO. Two years ago, the FBI clumsily tried to get Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham to accept bribes.
OCF filed a complaint last month against Brown’s 2008 campaign, alleging that the campaign committee failed to “report 210 contributions totaling $102,763.00, [failed] to report 53 expenditures totaling $169,431.49, [failed] to amend its Statement of Organization to include a bank account and identify a signatory, and [failed] to substantiate $174,785.57 in expenditures.” That last item relates to Brown’s campaign money that wound up being paid to his brother Che Brown‘s sales-training company.
The BOEE hearing was a chance for Brown to respond to the complaint, but Brown’s attorney Fred Cooke Jr. passed, instead asking the board to postpone any action and refer the case to the USAO.
“Our view is, let’s just cut to the chase,” said Cooke. He declined to say whether the feds had already contacted Brown or others associated with the campaign.
The BOEE essentially granted Cooke’s request. West said he wants the feds to investigate as quickly as possible and noted that the FBI has better “firepower” to fully investigate the matter. SanFord says OCF has asked Brown’s campaign for records, including Che Brown’s bank records, on “numerous occasions” without getting an “affirmative response.” Cooke said he didn’t know if Che Brown, whom he doesn’t represent, even has records to hand over. (LL has a request for comment in with Che Brown and will update as needed.)
As for the chairman, his office released a statement from “The Committee to Re-Elect Kwame Brown” saying that it welcomes the feds’ probe and is confident they won’t find any criminal wrongdoing.
When reporters tried to question Brown after a council session this afternoon, he gave a quick no-comment comment in the form of, “We’re just looking forward to moving forward and getting some closure to it. I’m looking forward to a full investigation.”