For Corrine Brown, it’s always been about money and just a matter of time until the fall.
It began when she was elected to the Legislature in 1982.
While there, she somehow managed to also run a travel agency that was particularly adept at securing government contracts while also holding down a full-time, taxpayer-funded job at what was then FCCJ, the purpose of which was never clear.
It was during her days in Tallahassee that she helped a friend secure a large federal grant for a doomed-to-fail project called the One Stop Economic Development Center that ended up costing Jacksonville taxpayers $300,000.
More questions followed Brown when she moved to Congress in 1992.
She had problems with the Federal Elections Commission and campaign finance laws.
She was blatant about asking for money, once writing a letter to “concerned” directors of political action committees pointing out that her campaign was $50,000 in debt and that she served on influential congressional committees.
Then there was the $50,000 luxury car that ended up in her daughter’s name. That car was connected to a West African millionaire for whom Brown used her political muscle to keep him out of prison.
During her 24 years as a Democratic representative in Congress, her desire for the good life grew: shopping sprees in California, luxury suites, travel, fancy parties.
That’s what a federal jury found last week when jurors voted unanimously that she had committed fraud, often using dollars meant for charity, to finance that lifestyle.
Perhaps one lesson in the downfall of Brown is that a sense of entitlement can develop after years of wielding influence in Congress and continuously rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful. Those are the people who write the big checks members of Congress depend on in their constant search for campaign funds, and they live champagne lifestyles of private jets and first-class treatment.
For members of Congress who don’t have such wealth, why not me, too, can because a temptation that is easy to succumb to.
The enablers also can’t be overlooked — the people who write those checks, and in this case without asking even basic questions about what turned out to be a fraudulent charity.
Keeping members of Congress happy for when their help is needed has become the way of Washington.
I’ve never been a fan of Brown because of many of the things listed above.
Another reason was how Brown got to Congress in the first place.
In 1992, Democrats controlled the state House, Senate and the Governor’s Office.
There was a contentious battle that year over redistricting, and Brown and other African-American legislators threw their support to Republicans, which ended up with a court redrawing congressional district lines.
That led to the monstrously gerrymandered 3rd Congressional District, with new lines taking illogical twists and turns to capture African-American voters.
Lo and behold, the new district Brown helped create was perfect for her to take a seat in Congress.
Even more distasteful has been Brown’s penchant for making any criticism or challenge of her about racism.
If I questioned her actions in a column, it was because I’m a racist.
Any attempts to reconfigure her district to make it more reasonable was, in Brown’s view, a racist attempt to deprive her African-American constituents of representation.
And the fraud charges brought against her in federal court were just another racist plot to silence her voice.
I readily admit that in almost a quarter of a century writing columns that sometimes focused on Brown, I’ve heard too many examples of racism from callers and commenters.
But that doesn’t make racism the universal motivation that Brown claims.
Brown insists that she hasn’t done anything different from what other members of Congress do routinely.
If that’s the case, the FBI has a lot of work ahead of it.
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