Indicted Fmr Dem Rep. Corrine Brown Spent Campaign Cash After Primary Loss

Expensed $13,476 in petty cash, hotels, travel after electoral defeat

Former Rep. Corrine Brown (D., Fla.), resplendent in furs on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court / Getty Images
April 30, 2017

The campaign committee of former Rep. Corrine Brown (D., Fla.), who is currently on trial for corruption charges, spent thousands on hotels and small travel expenses after Brown was defeated in the Democratic primary last year.

Brown, who lost to former Florida State Sen. Al Lawson in the August 2016 primary, spent $11,278 on "lodging" at a Marriot Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland in late September 2016, nearly one month after the election.

In addition to the hotel expenditures, the campaign disclosed three "petty cash" transactions totaling more than $2,000 during the two-week span between October 16 and November 4.

A small amount ($185) also was spent on travel expenses in Houston, Texas and Jacksonville, Florida.

Thousands more were spent on more typical transactions following an election loss, such as payments to campaign vendors.

Brown and her chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, were indicted in July 2016 on 24 counts of fraud stemming from a sham foundation created by the former congresswoman.

More than $800,000 was deposited into Brown's Virginia-based foundation, One Door for Education, which spent only $1,200 on charity.

Federal authorities found that Brown, Elias, and Carla Wiley, the foundation's president, spent $200,000 of the group's funds on luxury vacations, NFL tickets, plane tickets, car repairs, and lavish events.

Wiley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in March 2016. Simmons pleaded guilty to fraud in February.

An FBI agent testified Wednesday against Brown, saying the money was taken from her foundation and put into a bank account shared by Brown and her daughter.

Last year, the Washington Free Beacon obtained records from the Corrine Brown Legal Expense Trust, finding that Brown had accepted contributions from lobbyists, which is prohibited by House ethics rules.

One of the lobbyists, Michael Korens, provided the Free Beacon with an email from Simmons when asked who solicited the contribution. The email contained a flyer for a fundraising event at Johnny's Half Shell, a now-closed seafood restaurant located on Capitol Hill.

Korens said he was unaware that members of Congress could not accept contributions from lobbyists to cover their legal expenses, and said he called the House ethics committee to self-report the potential violation.

The lobbyists who provided the contributions did not violate House ethics rules. However, legal defense funds are prohibited from accepting such donations, according to House ethics rules.

Brown again solicited donations to her legal defense fund in September, claiming the criminal charges against her were brought due to her efforts to fight racism.

A Brown spokesman previously said he did not know if the fund was approved by the ethics committee to be used on her criminal charges.

Tom Rust, chief counsel of the ethics committee, did not respond to Free Beacon inquiries about whether the fund was approved. Brown could not be reached for comment.

Published under: Corrine Brown , Corruption