Michael Brown says he’s not a target of campaign probe

October 9, 2012

Brown says he’s in the clear, but prosecutors won’t confirm that. (Bill O’Leary/TWP)

D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown, facing a tough re-election fight, issued a statement Tuesday seeking to quiet some unanswered questions about the biggest issue with his campaign — the nearly $114,000 that went missing from it in what Brown alleges was a theft.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said on WTOP last week that the matter was still under investigation more than three months after Brown first leveled the fraud allegations, accusing former campaign treasurer Hakim Sutton.

“Until we have substantial information to support that, there’s not going to be charges brought,” Lanier said.

So what’s the deal, then? In the statement, Brown’s campaign attorney tries to reassure those who might be willing to credit the suggestion made by Sutton’s lawyer that Brown had knowledge of the missing money.

“The United States Attorney’s office confirmed that Michael Brown is not a target of the investigation,” said attorney Jeanett P. Henry, reiterating that Brown “had no involvement in the stolen funds” and is “cooperating with the authorities and wants the suspect to be brought to justice for his criminal acts.”

Note that the U.S. attorney’s office might be confirming things to the Brown campaign, but they are not confirming anything to The Washington Post. “The [office] has no comment on the statement,” spokesman William Miller wrote me in an e-mail.

Note that “target” is a term of art in federal investigations. Per Title 9 of the Department of Justice’s official manual for U.S. attorneys, if a grand jury or prosecutor has “substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant,” you’re a target. If they don’t, you’re not a target.

In other Brown campaign news, he was one of two D.C. Council incumbents who did not win an endorsement Tuesday from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce‘s political action committee. (Marion Barry, running unopposed in Ward 8, is the other.) [UPDATE, 10/10: Independent Jauhar Abraham is running against Barry.]

While Brown has tried to maintain good relations with business interests, he has sought to playing a leading role in advocating for social service spending and union-backed interests. Brown broke with the business groups early on after he introduced a bill that would mandate union labor at a huge swatch of city construction projects. He later supported strengthening less onerous “First Source” laws requiring the hiring of D.C. residents on those projects — again, not a position Chamber of Commerce types smile upon.

Brown addressed the endorsement snub in a tweet to the Washington Business Journal’s Michael Neibauer: “[W]ith my record of support 4 working class families, it comes as no surprise that I didn’t get it.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis | October 9, 2012