WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia Councilmember Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) endured a weekend of bad headlines when The Washington Post dug into his driving record and discovered that his license was suspended five times in the past eight years because of traffic violations and failure to pay tickets.
It was the latest bad news for the son of former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton administration Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, capped off with an unflattering Post editorial on Sunday with a print edition headline: "Can you trust this politician?" (The online version is titled "A little loose with money.")
What's all the fuss about?
Brown, who narrowly survived a re-election signature petition challenge, last week detailed in campaign finance filings that more than $110,000 was missing from his re-election coffers. In June, Brown notified police and D.C. elections officials that a "substantial" amount of money was missing and fired his campaign treasurer Hakim Sutton, whom Brown has blamed for the mess.
In a statement released following his updated campaign filing last week, Brown, who is the D.C. Council chairman pro tempore, described the situation involving the missing funds as a "crime committed against the campaign."
Sutton's lawyer bit back hard last week, accusing the councilmember of being sloppy with his campaign finances.
"You mean to tell me that over two-thirds of your campaign treasury was depleted and you knew nothing about it? Incredible," attorney J. Wyndal Gordon said in a message posted to Facebook.
The Post's editorial recaps Brown's other unfortunate missteps over the years:
It is hard to divorce these latest issues from Mr. Brown’s past failure to pay his rent, mortgage and taxes on time or his previous campaign finance difficulties. An audit of his 2008 campaign found unreported expenditures and checks returned because of insufficient funds. In 1997 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign violation for making straw contributions.
Brown also has been highly criticized this year for his efforts to bring Internet gambling to the nation's capital, which some have viewed as a conflict of interest for the councilmember.
Will the lastest headlines further dent Brown's image as the November elections approach? As the Post reported this weekend:
Although Brown comes from a family with deep Democratic roots, he is running for one of the two At-Large D.C. Council seats reserved for candidates not running for the majority party.
The son of Ronald H. Brown, the late commerce secretary and Democratic National Committee chairman, Brown would appear to have the ideal pedigree for a career in public office -- a politically solid family name and access to a network of deep-pocketed supporters.
Yet, despite those advantages and a charming demeanor, questions about Brown's judgment are fueling attacks from his political opponents and becoming a key campaign issue.
Brown is facing Republican Mary Brooks Beatty, Statehood Green candidate Ann Wilcox, and Independents David Grosso, a former D.C. Council and congressional staffer, Leon Swain, the former D.C. Taxicab Commissioner, and A.J. Cooper, a civic activist and former BET "Teen Summit" host.
Because of his incumbency and family name, Brown has been favored to retain his At-Large seat. But Grosso, a relative unknown, has been gaining traction and support by some bigger names in local D.C. politics. "I supported Michael [Brown], but not this time," former D.C. Councilmember William Lightfoot (I-At Large) told the Post. "I believe Grosso is qualified and honest."