Highlighting the criminal activity blotter for the District of Columbia’s famously corrupt government this week is its disgraced council chairman, Kwame Brown, pleading guilty to a federal felony.
It’s simply part of the never-ending saga of political scandals in the local government that runs the area surrounding the White House. Rarely is there a dull moment in this council, which has two convicted criminals (Marion Barry, famous for smoking crack in an FBI surveillance video, and Michael Brown, a money launderer whose father was a corrupt Clinton Administration official) on its roster.
This week, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (no relation to Michael, son of Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown) resigned after the feds charged him with bank fraud. Brown is also charged with a separate crime for violating D.C. laws in his 2008 campaign. The area’s largest mainstream newspaper published excerpts of a letter Brown wrote to fellow councilmembers saying he resigned out of “great respect” for the council because it was the “only honorable course.” He came short of professing his innocence.
Brown subsequently admitted in federal court to submitting false documents, including forging the name and signature of a college friend and overstating his income by tens of thousands of dollars, according to a news report. The lies were included on bank applications to qualify for a loan and money to buy a boat. After court, the disgraced politician apologized to his family and the public as “his voice broke.”
Just a few months ago another shameless D.C. council member, Harry Thomas, was sent to prison for stealing $350,000 in public funds meant for youth programs. Earlier this year a local paper exposed that a politically-connected nonprofit run by former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s pal, blew millions of dollars that were supposed to help build and renovate housing for the poor in the slums surrounding the nation’s capital.
These sorts of things are par for the course in D.C.’s perpetually corrupt government, which seldom lacks a good national headliner. Last summer Mayor Vincent Gray, a veteran councilman, was the subject of a widespread investigation for paying a mayoral candidate to stay in the race and trash dethroned, then-Mayor Fenty.
Who could forget the master headliner of them all, Marion Barry? Despite starring in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack, Barry has been elected to the D.C. Council four times since his drug conviction and proudly represents Ward 8 despite his ongoing transgressions. After completing his drug sentence, Barry has been in trouble for failing to pay his taxes, violating the terms of his probation and stalking a former girlfriend.
How appropriate that the District of Columbia’s scandal-plagued mayor, Vincent Gray, was in Sin City when his close friend and top aide got criminally charged for destroying records to cover up a corruption scheme that took place during his 2010 campaign.
Gray has been embroiled in a variety of controversies throughout his political career, which includes a lengthy tenure on the D.C. council before taking over as mayor last year. As council chairman he got busted for using official stationery to solicit donations for the Democratic Party and for having a politically-connected contractor renovate his house. Gray used official council stationary to solicit a $20,000 contribution from a cable company to help pay for Democratic Party activities, in violation of measures forbidding taxpayer resources from being utilized for political reasons or to raise cash for a particular party.
As council chair Gray also had a mega developer that does strictly large commercial projects renovate his house. At the time the company had a $300 million real estate contract in an area that Gray represented and initially the then-councilman denied any work had been done on his 2,800-square-foot home. He only came clean after a reporter dug around and gathered evidence of the shady arrangement.
More recently Vincent, who once headed the District’s Department of Human Services, has been accused of operating a seedy cash-for-campaign scheme during the 2010 mayoral race. Federal authorities began investigating Gray after a disgruntled staffer (Sulaimon Brown) revealed that members of his mayoral campaign gave him envelops stuffed with cash and money orders to stay in the race and maintain a verbal assault on incumbent Adrian Fenty. Vincent has hired Bill Clinton’s sex-scandal lawyer (Robert Bennett) to defend him.
This week the feds charged Vincent’s close friend and campaign treasurer, Thomas Gore, for destroying records associated with that illicit operation and for making illegal campaign contributions. The capital-area’s largest mainstream newspaper alludes that it could be the tip of the iceberg in a wide-ranging federal investigation of Gray’s mayoral campaign. The report also reveals that Gray was in Las Vegas “working to attract business to the District” when his pal got slapped with the charges.
Even after becoming mayor, Gray has come under fire for hiring an army of senior staffers with lucrative salaries while the city suffers through a painful $400 million budget shortfall. Among Gray’s highly-paid employees are the son of his chief of staff and the daughter of a close adviser. This sort of thing is commonplace in a local government that has mastered the art of making national headlines for the many transgressions of its elected leaders.
Who could forget Mayor Marion Barry—elected to the D.C. Council four times since his drug conviction—starring in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack? Barry, who represents Ward 8, has since been in trouble for failing to pay his taxes, violating the terms of his probation and stalking a former girlfriend. Yet he remains a fixture in D.C. government.
The acclaimed lawyer who assured the nation of Bill Clinton’s veracity during two sex scandals is doing the same for Washington D.C.’s crooked mayor, who may be on the verge of getting criminally charged in a corruption scheme.A federal grand jury is hearing evidence into accusations that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, a veteran councilman, may have paid a mayoral candidate to stay in the race and trash then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. Gray, who has previously made headlines for his unscrupulous acts as a D.C. politician, replaced Fenty this year.Federal authorities began investigating Gray after a disgruntled staffer exposed a seedy cash-for-campaigning scheme, according to a local newspaper that cites attorneys and law enforcement sources associated with the case. The fired employee (Sulaimon Brown) says members of Gray’s mayoral campaign gave him envelopes stuffed with cash and money orders to stay in the race and maintain a verbal assault on Fenty.This sort of behavior would not be surprising for Gray, who has been embroiled in a variety of scandals throughout his career. As D.C. Council chair in 2009, Gray got busted for illegally using official stationery to solicit donations for the Democratic Party and for secretly having a city contractor renovate his house.After becoming mayor in January Gray came under fire for hiring an army of senior staffers with lucrative salaries while the city suffered through a painful $400 million budget shortfall. Among Gray’s highly-paid employees are the son of his chief of staff and the daughter of a close adviser.This sort of thing is commonplace in a local government that has mastered the art of making national headlines for the many transgressions of its elected leaders. Who could forget Mayor Marion Barry—elected to the D.C. Council four times since his drug conviction—starring in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack?Barry, who represents Ward 8, has since been in trouble for failing to pay his taxes, violating the terms of his probation and stalking a former girlfriend. A veteran of these sorts of scandals, Gray has lined up one of the area’s top attorney’s (Robert Bennett) to defend him legally and in the media.Bennett did the same for Clinton during the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky sex scandals, assuring the nation of the then commander-in-chief’s innocence and candor. Bennett guarantees that he has “investigated” the Gray case “thoroughly” and “there is absolutely no merit” to any of the accusations made against him. Sound familiar?