Michael Brown and other D.C. Council corruptions

Brown accepted $10,000 in cash inside a Washington Redskins mug August 7, 2012. Photo: USADC

Former D.C. councilman pleaded guilty Monday to bribery, the third recent councilmember in 18 months to plead guilty before a judge for financial corruption.

Michael Brown, 48, is accused of accepting $55,000 in cash from undercover FBI agents. Those agents were posing as businessmen who were trying to obtain what's called a Certified Business Enterprise from the District's Department of Small and Local Business Development.

Over the course of eight months, prosecutors say Brown met with the undercover agents in hotels and restaurants. He was paid $55,000 in cash, $100 bills stuffed into Redskins cups, coffee mugs, and duffel bags. Proscutors say the payments began after former Councilmember Harry Thomas was sentenced and continued even as former Council Chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to bank fraud.{ }

“Mr. Brown knew he was violating the public trust and now he knows he will pay the price,” says Timothy Gallagher of the FBI.

Brown faces up to 37 months in prison.

According to the department, CBE certification affords businesspeople in Washington receive "preferred procurement and contracting opportunities."

“Today, Michael Brown became the third member of the D.C. Council to plead guilty to a felony in the last 18 months,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. “This prosecution should make clear that we will not allow the politics of pay to play to flourish in the District of Columbia. We will not tolerate the backroom deals, the secret payments, and the unreported cash that corrupt not only our elections and public officials but our entire system of government."

Other problems erupted for Brown when $110,000 went missing from a campaign account last September.

Brown, the son of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, abruptly dropped out of a special election for an open seat in April because of personal and family concerns.

Last May, former D.C. Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. was sentenced to 38 months for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds earmarked for youth sports programs. Last June, Kwame Brown was forced to resign as chairman for bank fraud.

So why do D.C. leaders get themselves into these situations?

“It looks terrible and again, it makes you wonder what we’re looking at in terms of public servants,” says Mr. Muhammad of D.C.

“The Council salary is now in excess of $125,000 a year,” says Dorothy Brizill. “When you look at the details of their crime it became apparent that they were trying to aspire to a certain lifestyle and that their salary wasn’t enough.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.