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Corruption Chronicles

D.C. Elects 2nd Convict To Council

The District of Columbia Council added a second convicted criminal to its roster this week with the election of a lobbyist whose father was a corrupt Clinton Administration official.

Michael Brown, the son of Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, joins fellow convict Marion Barry as a D.C. councilman this week. Michael was convicted of money laundering in 1997 as part of a deal with Justice Department officials investigating campaign fund-raising violations. D.C.’s new councilman made illegal donations to Democrats and reimbursed associates for contributions to skirt federal contribution laws.

A House committee investigating fund-raising abuses also conducted a probe of the younger Brown’s questionable activities, which were connected to a pair of prominent Democratic fundraisers who operated a natural gas company and eventually got convicted.

Michael’s father, Ron Brown, was under investigation when he died in a 1996 plane crash in a Croatian mountainside. The commerce secretary orchestrated a White House Asian fundraising scandal in which trade mission seats were sold for contributions to Clinton’s campaign as well as the Democratic Party.
In fact, shortly after Brown’s cabinet confirmation the FBI opened a criminal investigation into accusations that he had taken a $700,000 bribe from a Vietnamese government official in exchange for his influence to liberalize U.S. trade policy toward that country.

Using his famous father’s name helped Michael finally win public office after two failed attempts, one for D.C. mayor and the other for councilman. In those races he refused to identify his dad’s presidential cabinet accolades and political analysts are certain that doing so made the difference this time around.

Brown joins the politician (Marion Barry) best known for appearing in an FBI surveillance video smoking crack. A former four-term D.C. mayor, Barry got convicted on drug charges and served jail time before being elected to the D.C. council. A few years ago he pleaded guilty in federal court for failing to pay his city and federal taxes.


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