We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
The golden rule of Twitter is simple: Never Tweet. But if you must, check which account you’re logged into first.
The D.C. Democratic Party learned that lesson the hard way this week, after the local party sent out a strange tweet Monday promoting a slate of candidates jockeying for control of the Chicago Teachers’ Union. The account’s managers quickly realized the mistake and pulled it down, but not before plenty of people (including Washington Teachers’ Union Secretary Laura Fuchs) noticed and started drawing attention to the post, considering that the “Members First Caucus” the tweet promoted has been criticizing the CTU’s recent work stoppage.
At first, the party tweeted simply that the post was an “accident” and that “we do not get involved in internal union elections in Chicago or any other city.” But the replies piled up, filled with people wondering why, exactly, someone working for this bunch of strike-averse teachers would even have access to the local Dems’ Twitter account.
By Thursday, the D.C. Dems addressed the matter more directly, naming Josh Brown, the party’s communications and digital director, as the person responsible for the errant post, which was intended for his client in Chicago. The group also pledged to open an investigation, noting allegations that Brown is “anti-union and anti-Democratic Party causes” based on his work for the Members First Caucus.
Most curiously, the statement said that the party would suspend its contract with Brown’s company, Brown Strategy, as that investigation proceeds. Brown is listed as staff on the D.C. Dems website, alongside Executive Director Claudette David.
Neither Brown nor David responded to requests for comment seeking clarity on the arrangement. But it would seem the local party is paying Brown in some capacity to run its Twitter account and reach its roughly 5,300 followers (and Brown’s firm lists the party among its clients on its website), a slightly odd set-up for a local Democratic committee.
So what else does Brown do when he’s not involved in Chicago politics? Other clients listed on the firm’s site include the politically connected contractor Fort Myer Construction and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds. But his work locally is largely focused on anti-tobacco efforts.
For the past three years, Brown has worked as a lobbyist for the Tobacco Free Kids Action Fund (an offshoot of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), per D.C. records. He’s lobbied Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration and the Council frequently on these matters in recent years, with lobbying reports showing a particular amount of support for the Council’s recently passed bill banning flavored tobacco products. Tweets on his personal account reflect that focus, too (though he took a break from tobacco-related content last February to retweet lots of pro-Mike Bloomberg posts).
The Members First account, which Brown presumably has some hand in running, has also stayed busy since the D.C. Dems snafu Monday. Members First frequently criticizes CTU’s leadership (a slate affiliated with the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators) for pressing so aggressively for new COVID safety measures before agreeing to end a work stoppage. Its tweets largely reflect those complaints, with some notable exceptions.
On Wednesday, for instance, the account retweeted a user who replied to Fuchs, when she noted Brown’s involvement with the Members First Caucus. “Your [sic] one of those socialists that ends up abusing people and covering it up,” @drkugler wrote, linking to an article asserting that a“rape coverup” undermined the International Socialist Organization in 2019.