Florida Representative Corrine Brown Was Indicted On Multiple Fraud Charges

Where there’s power, there is sometimes corruption (OK, who am I kidding — there is probably always corruption where there’s power). On Friday, Florida Representative Corrine Brown was indicted on multiple fraud charges, including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction, and filing of false tax returns. Brown has represented a district in the city of Jacksonville since 1993, according to the Associated Press, and was up for reelection this year in a newly drawn district (which is sort of bullshit in and of itself). Having senators and representatives who have been in Congress forever and ever sometimes seems like a good thing, but being able to serve for an unlimited number of years allows people to get comfortable. And when people get comfortable, they sometimes do shitty things.

What she allegedly did sounds pretty nasty, too. Federal authorities were looking into One Door for Education Foundation Inc., which was supposed to be set up to give scholarships, but instead was paying Brown and her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, who was also indicted Friday. Over the years, One Door gave away one scholarship for $1,000, according to The Orlando Sentinal. Yes, just one. And Simmons allegedly transferred Brown tens of thousands of dollars into her personal bank account. I feel for any poor student who thought they were applying to One Door for a scholarship and beat themselves up when they didn’t get it.

One Door president Carla Wiley pleaded guilty to one count of fraud last year and admitted that she had deposited $800,000 over four years and also transferred herself a cut of the money. Many donors, including Jacksonville Circuit Judge Virginia Norton, sent Brown a small check after Brown allegedly mailed a “professional looking” letter asking for donations. Norton told Jacksonville.com, “I assumed, because a U.S. congresswoman handed this out. I did not research it.”

Brown also allegedly hosted gold tournaments and other events under the One Door name to raise funds. That takes a lot of fucking nerve. Brown has said she is “clean” of any wrongdoing, according to The Orlando Sentinel, but hasn’t made a public statement yet about the charges or her appearance in court late Friday.

She better get her story straight, because it doesn’t look great. If a scholarship fund just gives one scholarship and raises $800,000 in donations that are then deposited into personal accounts, there better be a good reason for it. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement that “corruption erodes the public’s trust in our entire system of representative government.”

Which is very, very true. It’s hard to trust anyone in government when long-term politicians like Brown are seemingly doing good. She is a Democrat who’s a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton, held fundraisers for Trayvon Martin’s family, and spoke about voting rights for minorities. She seemed to be fighting the good fight. (It also doesn’t look great that a fervent Clinton surrogate was allegedly funneling money around — there’s that whole “company you keep” effect that Clinton should speak to, and soon.)

Her indictment does show one thing at the very least: when you do shitty things, you usually get caught.