Brown’s attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., did not respond to numerous e-mails or phone messages seeking comment. U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. also declined to comment.
As chairman, Brown was the second highest-ranking official in D.C. government, wielding incredible power over the city’s finances and deciding which legislation is taken up by the council. He had increased the influence of the council chairman’s position — literally expanding the size of his own office by blasting out walls — and was known to reward supporters with coveted leadership posts and strip such assignments from those who crossed him.
Brown had been next in line to succeed Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) if Gray were to leave office.
Gray, who also is weathering a federal investigation into practices tied to his 2010 mayoral campaign, issued a statement Wednesday saying that he was “shocked by the news. I am disappointed and saddened. I was elected to the Council when Chairman Brown was elected to an at-large position. I served with him my entire time on the Council. Never would I have imagined something like this would occur.”
Brown is the second council member this year to be charged with a federal crime. Last month, former council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D) was sentenced to 38 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $350,000 from city taxpayers.
In recent weeks, two staff members of Gray’s 2010 campaign pleaded guilty to scheming to funnel undocumented campaign cash to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate in the mayoral race. Their goal was to keep the candidate in the primary battle to assail then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).
Federal authorities have also conducted high-profile raids of the home and office of a consultant to Gray’s campaign and of the home and offices of Jeffrey Thompson, a prominent and influential D.C. contractor. The investigation, which has scooped up millions of pages of records, appears to be focused on Thompson’s ties to city officials and elected leaders.
The charges against Kwame Brown are likely to end — for now — what had seemed a promising political career.
The son of a well-known and sharp-knuckled D.C. political operative, Brown became council chairman at age 40 in 2010 by defeating Vincent B. Orange by 15 percentage points. Six years earlier, Brown had become the first person living east of the Anacostia River to be elected to an at-large council seat when he upset a four-term incumbent.
Although his term as chairman started off rocky — he endured an uproar for driving an expensive city-leased, fully-loaded sport-utility vehicle — Brown had been working hard to project the image of a leader by recently negotiating a 2013 budget that includes no new taxes but still manages to fund new parks and set aside $18 million for affordable housing.