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CORRINE BROWN Printer Friendly Page
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Lawmaker Got $10,000 from Lyons Fund
By St. Petersburg Times
April 14, 1998
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  • Democratic Member of Congress
  • Member of the Progressive Caucus
  • Her voting record has a 95 percent rating from the leftwing group Americans For Democratic Action
  • Has been involved in numerous scandals, including receiving money from individuals facing Federal criminal charges
  • In 2000, lobbied the U.S. Senate to block George W. Bush’s election as President

Corrine Brown is a black Democratic Member of Congress who represents the horseshoe-shaped Third District of Florida, gerrymandered in 1992 to stretch from black neighborhoods in Jacksonville to black neighborhoods in Orlando. The five districts surrounding it are solidly Republican, but this carefully carved district's electorate is 49 percent African-American and 8 percent Hispanic. These demographics, added to whatever white Democrats reside in the Third District, have made it a Democratic stronghold.

Brown was born in Jacksonville in November 1946. She earned an undergraduate degree in 1969 and a master’s degree in 1971 -- both at Florida A&M University. She taught at Florida Community College from 1977 until 1982, when she ran successfully for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

After accruing ten years' experience in the state legislature, Brown in 1992 was positioned to seize the custom-made opportunity offered by the newly gerrymandered Third District. She beat a white male opponent in the Democratic primary, then won the general election with 64 percent of the vote. She has been re-elected by wide margins every two years since then.

Over the course of her political career, Brown has been involved in several controversies. In 1992 she paid $5,000 in campaign funds to a St. Petersburg company bearing the address of the church of her longtime political ally, National Baptist Convention USA president Henry Lyons. Brown claimed that the money exchange was for the purchase of a computer, but Lyons’ company (which purportedly sold her the computer) had been dissolved six years earlier.

In 1993 Brown paid (with taxpayer dollars) Florida minister Fred Demps, a close business partner of Henry Lyons, to do "community outreach" for her. According to prosecutors, Demps had helped Lyons defraud several corporations.

Also in 1993, Brown's congressional office reserved for Lyons several airline tickets at the government discount rate that was supposed to be reserved exclusively for political operatives traveling on official government business.

That same year, Brown paid a $5,000 fine to the Florida Ethics Commission, which found that she inappropriately had used legislative staff members as employees in a travel agency she owned.

In 1994 Brown’s congressional re-election campaign received $1,300 in contributions from Henry Lyons.

During her re-election campaign in 1996, Brown accepted a $10,000 contribution (an amount far exceeding the $1,000 individual donation limit) from a secret Wisconsin bank account that Henry Lyons allegedly used for money laundering. Brown did not report the money on either her financial disclosure statements or her campaign contribution reports. Nor could Brown's office produce any bank records or receipts showing how the money had been spent.

The Federal Election Commission has admonished Brown on several occasions for her flawed campaign-spending reports. Her own campaign treasurer quit his post in the mid-Nineties after learning that his name had been forged on some of those reports. Yet the staffer responsible for the forgery went on to become Brown's chief of staff.

A St. Petersburg Times investigation reported that in 1998 Brown's daughter Shantrel Brown-Fields (a lawyer and Environmental Protection Agency employee) was given a $50,000 Lexus automobile by a Gambian millionaire named Foutanga Sissoko. A friend of Congresswoman Brown, Sissoko at the time was serving a prison term for having bribed a customs officer. Before Brown's daughter received the Lexus, the congresswoman had worked to secure Sissoko's release, pressuring then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to deport Sissoko back to his homeland as an alternative to continued incarceration.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, the House Ethics Committee investigated the $10,000 contribution and the Lexus gift. In September 2000 that Committee concluded that Brown had "demonstrated, at the least, poor judgment and created substantial concerns regarding both the appearance of impropriety and the reputation of the House." The Committee dropped the case, however, because it was unable to question certain key witnesses, including the Gambian millionaire.

In 1999 Brown expressed bitter opposition to Ward Connerly’s anti-affirmative action campaign in Florida. Brown called Connerly a “paid carpetbagger” whose efforts represented a threat to Florida’s status as a “diverse state” where the “inclusion” of nonwhites in business and academia was highly valued. "Who made him God?" Brown said of Connerly.

During the 2000 presidential election's Florida recount controversy, Brown insisted that the voting irregularities in question discriminated against African-Americans. After George W. Bush had been declared the winner, Brown was one of several black members of Congress who lobbied the U.S. Senate to block Bush's election as President.

During a congressional hearing in 2004, Brown described President Bush's policy towards Haiti as "racist" and complained that the hearing's administration officials were "a bunch of white men."  When Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, a Mexican-American, protested being called "white" and "racist," Brown snapped, "You all look alike to me."

In 2004 Brown toured her district to raise funds that would be used to finance local screenings of the controversial Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, where constituents would pay $25 a head to attend.

In June 2007 the organization Citizens for Ethics, which maintains that relatives of congressional representatives should be barred from lobbying for special interests (because such activities could raise conflict-of-interest issues for the lawmakers), reported that Brown's daughter (Shantrel Brown-Fields) was a congressional lobbyist -- and that one of her clients was Edward Waters College, for which Rep. Brown had earmarked millions of dollars in federal funding.

Corrine Brown is among the higher seniority members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is ranking Democrat on the Railroads Subcommittee. The largest share of her campaign contributions comes from unions, especially the United Transportation Union and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. She also receives large amounts of money from America's two far-left public-employee unions, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Other major supporters include the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), and the fundraising committee of longtime New York congressman Charles Rangel.

Brown belongs to both the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus in the House of Representatives. Her voting record, according to the leftwing Americans for Democratic Action, leans 95 percent left. During her legislative career, Brown has voted:

  • in favor of the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
  • against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
  • against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
  • against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
  • against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
  • in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
  • against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
  • in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
  • against one proposal calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border, but in favor of another such bill;
  • against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
  • against major tax-cut proposals in September 1998, February 2000, March 2000, July 2000, May 2001, May 2003, and May 2006;
  • in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
  • against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.


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