Last week, on March 16th, the House Ethics Committee voted to open up an investigation into accusations of unethical (and possibly criminal) behavior by Democrat Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL).
In accordance with House Rule XI, clause 3, and Committee Rules 1 O(a)(2) and 18, the Committee on Ethics (Committee) unanimously voted on March 16, 2016, to establish an Investigative Subcommittee. Pursuant to the Committee’s action, the Investigative Subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative Corrine Brown violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of her duties or the discharge of her responsibilities, with respect to allegations that she engaged in improper conduct relating to certain outside organizations, including allegations that she may have conspired with other persons in connection with fraudulent activity, improperly solicited charitable donations, used campaign funds for personal purposes, used official resources for impermissible non-official purposes, failed to comply with tax laws, and made false statements, and/or failed to make required disclosures, to the House of Representatives and Federal Election Commission.
The accusations have seemingly arisen from allegations that Brown “improperly solicited charitable donations” for a charity that wasn’t actually a charity.
Federal prosecutors said despite presenting One Door as an education charity since its launch in 2011, Wiley never obtained tax-exempt status or filed state or federal tax returns, while soliciting about $800,000 in donations.
Between 2012 and 2016, the group issued just one scholarship, of about $1,000, authorities said.
In the meantime, Wiley withdrew or transferred to her own accounts more than $140,000, her plea agreement says.
While documents in Wiley’s case didn’t mention Brown by name, prosecutors alleged that $150,000 in charity funds were used for events hosted by or in the honor of an unnamed public official, dubbed “Person A.”
Several details in Wiley’s plea suggested Person A is Brown.
On March 23rd the House Ethics Committee announced that while they had voted to investigate the matter further, the Justice Department had asked to be given priority on the matter, to which the committee agreed.
The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to defer consideration of the matters in the Investigative Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The Committee, following precedent, unanimously recommended to the Investigative Subcommittee that it defer action on its investigation at this time. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.
What does it mean? Since the Department of Justice has already closed the case on the investigation into One Door, there are relatively few reasons for them to ask the House Ethics Committee to hold off on further investigation. The one possibility that seems likeliest is that as part of her plea deal the woman who had been running the One Door “charity” has named names and offered proof of Brown’s criminal activities. If this were the case, then the DOJ would obviously view the House investigation as problematic, and the House would understand the need to hold off on their investigation for the time being.
Whatever is going on here, the news can’t be good for Rep. Brown. When asked for comment on the imbroglio, she demurred, “I have no comment.”
She may not be talking now, but I’d bet she’ll have a lot to say about all of this in the very near future, standing before a judge.
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