- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Federal prosecutors accused former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown on Thursday of violating the city’s campaign finance laws by authorizing a relative to set up a “side account” for his 2008 re-election campaign as an at-large member of the council.

The misdemeanor charge filed in D.C. Superior Court added to Mr. Brown’s legal woes one day after he resigned his seat at the John A. Wilson Building. He stepped down Wednesday in the face of a felony charge that accuses him of lying on a home equity loan application by overstating his income between 2005 and 2007, in part to finance his boat named “Bullet Proof.”

The new charge, although technically less serious, could weigh more heavily in public opinion about Mr. Brown’s time in power and what is left of his political reputation. Unlike the fraud charge, campaign finance laws relate to the public’s business and Mr. Brown’s efforts to retain his seat on the council.

Mr. Brown had appeared to be attempting to draw a line between his public service and the personal financial problems for which he was criminally charged.

Earlier this week, he told reporters he had no plans to resign “at this time” and did not think he broke any laws during the 2008 campaign.

Both assertions were cast into the ether within 48 hours.

Mr. Brown is scheduled to enter a guilty plea to the bank fraud charge at the federal courthouse on Friday morning. Afterward, he will head next door to the D.C. Superior Court for a plea hearing on the campaign-related charge in the afternoon.

For the last year, Mr. Brown had been plagued by questions surrounding his 2008 re-election campaign after an April 2011 audit said he passed $239,000 in expenditures to a firm controlled by his brother, Che Brown.

Court papers filed in connection with the campaign finance charge do not name the person who set up a clandestine campaign account at Industrial Bank but say it was “a relative” who did not serve as the campaign treasurer.

Mr. Brown knew about the account and authorized the relative to make withdrawals on behalf of the campaign committee, the papers said.

Prosecutors say at least one “cash campaign expenditure” of more than $50 was made on or about Sept. 11, 2009, using the side account.

The misdemeanor was filed as an information, a type of charging document that indicates a plea deal is imminent.

On Thursday, the hallways around Mr. Brown’s offices were quiet and showed little evidence of the scrum of TV cameras and staffers that caused an uproar less than 24 hours prior. Mr. Brown’s name was stripped off the placard outside his former office door.

Several of his staff members, dressed in casual clothes, gathered outside the council chamber before heading out to lunch in the late morning.

Their employment status is unclear, though council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said they would be employed at least through next week when members select one of four at-large members to serve as acting chairman until a special election is held.

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