A prominent D.C. lobbyist, who most recently lobbied the D.C. Council on behalf of a controversial health-care giant, is Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s pick to chair the board of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority.
Max Brown, chief executive of Group 360, a Washington-based lobbying firm, could be confirmed as early as next week.
Brown said he would work to attract conventions and events to Washington, including ones from overseas, develop retail space at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and develop “strategies that further leverage our important assets,” including RFK stadium and other sports facilities.
Brown also said he will continue the work of the authority, which is also known as Events D.C., in ensuring that local firms are given business opportunities in the city.
Former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and two others testified in favor of Brown’s appointment at a meeting Wednesday of the council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue.
Brown served as legal counsel and deputy chief of staff during Williams’s administration. He has worked primarily as a businessman and lobbyist in the decade since.
“Max has experience both in D.C. government and in the private sector, and I think that experience will serve him well,” said Mike Czin, Bowser’s director of communications. When asked whether Brown’s lobbying experience created a conflict of interest for city government work, Czin pointed to a District “recusal process, if conflict arises, that will be strictly followed.”
This month, D.C. Council members criticized Brown for his “aggressive” lobbying on behalf of Corizon Health. The firm, which is based in Tennessee, was seeking approval of a $66 million contract to provide health care at the city’s jail. But opponents said Corizon had a dismal record in jails across the country.
Council members also raised questions about Brown’s ties to Bowser (D), who wanted to see the contract approved.
The mayor’s office has said the contracting process began well before Bowser was sworn in Jan. 2.
The council ultimately voted against the contract by a narrow margin.
Brown, who was a prolific fundraiser for Bowser during the mayoral election last year, said in an interview Wednesday that he learned of Bowser’s decision to nominate him to head Events D.C. late last year, before Bowser formally took office. At the time, Brown said he was the recipient of a contract to develop promotional videos for the Washington Convention Center.
Upon learning of the impending nomination, Brown said he asked that a final $9,750 payment owed to him by the District be paid to a charity of his choosing, Feast of Sharing.
“I just didn’t think it was appropriate to get paid for final work when my name was being sent to the council,” he said, adding that the District employed his firm for convention center work from 2011 until last year.
This month was not the first time that Brown’s intermingling of business and politics has raised questions.
When asked in 2005 whether his relationship to then-Mayor Williams had helped Brown’s public relations company secure city contracts, Brown told The Washington Post, “I am a bloodhound when it comes to chasing contracts.” But he said he believed it was “okay to do work for the city and lobby the city as long as it is not on the same issues. . . . I think it strengthens relationships.”
Brown, Williams said Wednesday, is an “outstanding individual” who “brings a passion and enthusiasm to the work he does.”