Three days after Kwame R. Brown won the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for a D.C. Council seat, his campaign began paying thousands of dollars to a newly retained political consulting firm, although his victory had all but guaranteed that he would prevail in the November election.
The firm, Maryland company Capitol Solutions Group LLC, was created by a close college friend of Brown's, Kevin M. McGhaw, who is listed in state records as its sole corporate officer. McGhaw also was Brown's campaign manager.
Kwame R. Brown's college friend worked as his campaign manager in Brown's bid for the D.C. Council.
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Before the primary, McGhaw had run Brown's campaign without being paid by the candidate's election committee, according to reports it filed with the Office of Campaign Finance. But during a six-week period beginning Sept. 17, Brown's campaign paid Capitol Solutions $64,276, or nearly one-quarter of the money the committee spent last year, the reports show. The documents list Capitol Solutions without any references to McGhaw, which were not required. They list a Montgomery Village P.O. Box number.
During those weeks before the general election, Capitol Solutions paid Brown's brother, Che, and their father, Marshall, about $7,500 for their work at the end of the campaign, the brother and father said in interviews last week. Their names do not appear on campaign finance reports for that period because they were paid by the consulting firm and not by the election committee.
Earlier in the campaign, from August 2003 to May 2004, Brown's committee had made direct payments of $24,832 in fees and reimbursements to the relatives, prompting criticism from Brown's opponents in the council race.
The payments to McGhaw's company after the primary -- expenditures that did not violate any laws, according to District regulators -- are at odds with the image Brown presented of a grass-roots campaign with a core staff of volunteers doing battle against a well-financed incumbent.
In recent interviews, Brown (D-At Large) gave conflicting accounts of whether McGhaw had been paid for his work as campaign manager.
Brown initially said that McGhaw, whom he met while the two were attending Morgan State University in Baltimore, "did not get a penny" for helping to run the campaign because resources were tight.
"He volunteered to be campaign manager," Brown said. "One, I didn't have any money, and the only person who would do that is an old friend. . . . The campaign was a grass-roots movement."
But when asked about the hiring of Capitol Solutions in an interview three days later, Brown acknowledged that his campaign retained McGhaw's company after the primary, explaining that the election committee at that point had started receiving more contributions.
Brown, a political newcomer, trounced 14-year incumbent Harold Brazil in the primary, taking 54 percent of the vote compared with Brazil's 32 percent. Winning the Democratic nomination usually is tantamount to election in the District, in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1. But Brown said he wanted to further energize his campaign and get as many votes in the general election as he could. He brought Capitol Solutions on board for that reason, he said.
"After the primary is when we ramped it up. I wanted to win and get a mandate. We had an aggressive movement going on," said Brown, who received 56 percent of the vote in the general election.
Brown said it was not until last week that he learned about the payments Capitol Solutions had made to his brother and father, who is a veteran of political campaigns.
"I had no idea it was taking place," he said. Brown added that he did not consider the compensation to his relatives to be inappropriate and that using Capitol Solutions was not a way to keep the payments to them off the campaign finance reports.