Arrest someone, please
What do D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have in common?
Numerous scandals plaguing local officials have turned the District into a pressure cooker. One need look no further than the events of last week --Council members insulting one another, expletives hurled in front of reporters, reporters barred from meetings-- for evidence of a pot about to burst.
A good old fashioned "perp walk" would do a lot to relieve some of the pressure. For the sake of our city, someone should be preparing arrest warrants.
Ward Five Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. is the lowest hanging fruit in potential arrest scenarios. The Office of the D.C. Attorney General settled its lawsuit against Thomas, but not before issuing a damning report. As well, in interviews and editorials about Thomas’s handling of public money D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan frequently used language like "criminal investigation" and "specter of a criminal prosecution."
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen has confirmed an investigation into Thomas’s alleged diversion of government funds to pay for a luxury SUV, expensive travel, golf outings and a good time at Hooters.
It is a wonder the U.S. Attorney has yet to slap cuffs on Thomas and parade him before the cameras. Findings already uncovered by the D.C. Attorney General make a solid case.
Also on the radar screen of the U.S. Attorney is the 2008 reelection campaign of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown. In 2008 Brown was running unopposed in the Democratic Primary for At-Large Council. Nonetheless, he spent more than $800,000 of which $239,000 ended up in the coffers of a company controlled by his brother, Che Brown. Despite requests, Che Brown has not provided local investigators with records detailing how the money was spent.
To the best of my knowledge Kwame Brown has never publicly stated that he did not personally benefit from campaign funds paid to his brother’s company or otherwise spent by the campaign. He has said "administrative errors" are to blame and that there is "no missing money."
Suspicions about the payments to Che Brown's company are heightened by following the money: a consulting firm that appears to have been formed for the sole purpose of servicing Kwame Brown's 2008 campaign was responsible for transferring the funds to Che Brown's company.
The 2008 campaign failed to report 221 contributions and revenue totaling over $133,000. Fifty-three expenditures totaling nearly $170,000 went unreported.
In referring Brown's case to the U.S. Attorney for investigation, D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Chairman Togo West said, "We think there's criminal activity here and it needs to be looked into."
So there you have it: two D.C. elected officials being investigated by Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney in charge of prosecuting corruption and similar crimes committed in the District.
Machen needs to deliver justice expeditiously. Our city is sinking under the weight of ethics scandals. Arrest Thomas or Brown or both. Send a message to their colleagues and every District resident: there is a new sheriff in town and he does not tolerate corruption or the lining of pockets with money that is not yours.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is Machen's boss. Before becoming Attorney General, Holder was a player in local politics, sometimes named as a potential mayoral candidate.
In January of this year Holder officiated the swearing-in of Kwame Brown as Council Chairman. I doubt he did that because they are strangers to one another.
In 2012 Holder’s boss, President Barack Obama, is up for reelection. Holder has already attracted unwanted criticism for decisions about where to prosecute suspected Guantanamo Bay detainees and the growing scandal surrounding "Operation Fast and Furious" in which guns intended for a sting operation ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Holder surely does not need questions to arise about his unwillingness to prosecute actual or perceived buddies from the District. Conservatives would have a field day at his expense. Figures like Thomas and Brown could easily become poster children for an Obama administration tolerant of public corruption.
So bring on the perp walks, Mr. Machen. It will do many people a lot of good and the folks who will be wearing handcuffs have seemingly invited the trouble upon themselves.
Chuck Thies hosts the "D.C. Politics" show Thursday mornings at 11:00 am on WPFW 89.3 FM, streaming online at wpfw.org.