Archive for the ‘DC Politics’ Category

Something is Rotten in the District of Columbia

Monday, June 11th, 2012

DC government stinks to high heaven. We know DC lawmakers are certainly not “bullet proof” to corruption  but it’s disturbing they think they can engage in criminal behavior without retribution. DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown became the second member of the body forced to resign from office in disgrace this year on the heels of council member Harry Thomas.

When news broke of Brown’s conviction charge on bank fraud, no one was surprised except Mayor Vincent Gray because DC residents have come to expect the lowest common denominators to serve us in government.  Mayor Vincent Gray tweeted: “I’m shocked, disappointed & saddened by today’s news; I served alongside Mr. Brown on Council & never would’ve imagined something like this.”

I doubt Gray was shocked in the least because he knows the culture of entitlement pervading DC government and the council in particular. He also knows the US Attorney’s office is investigating some alleged shady dealings by Gray and his 2010 mayoral campaign staff. My mother always says, “things happen in threes” both good and bad things. So, DC residents could see more convicted felons falling from our government ranks.

Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to bank fraud for overstating his income so he could secure a home equity loan to buy a boat he ironically christened “Bullet Proof.” Brown also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge.  The US Attorney’s office year long investigation also found Brown’s 2008 campaign failed to report $270,000 in campaign funds, made payments in cash exceeding $50,  and discovered another  $239,000 was diverted to a company run by his brother.  Like Brown, Harry Thomas thought he was entitled to do as he pleased once he became an elected DC official and stole $350,000 from DC taxpayers.

A real indication of how “lost in arrogant space” Brown was can be seen in his resignation letter. Instead of apologizing profusely to DC voters whom he serves at the pleasure of and to whom he must hold himself accountable, Brown offered an “unconditional apology to the members of the Council for all the negative attention that my conduct has brought about.” What’s revealing in this statement is Brown like many members of the council think they are more beholden to each other than the people they serve and this is where in the problem lies.

What’s disturbing is once elected, DC lawmakers seem to think they are immune to the laws of the land and more importantly standards of ethics and decency to which elected officials should feel compelled to adhere. Equally repugnant, it seems the only thing Kwame Brown and Harry Thomas knew how to do well was run for public office and be “third rate petty crooks, liars and hypocrites,” as Washington Post columnist Colbert King described.  Because neither knew what else to do but abuse their political power, both clung to their positions until the bitter end, only resigning when the heat of the law was poised to come down on them like a guillotine.

District residents need to raise the bar on our elected officials and stop voting the same charming, bombastic buffoons into office. We should start by changing the elections laws. In the Democrat dominated District of Columbia to allow for open primaries where all voters regardless of political party can vote. This would encourage greater voter turnout and more non-Democrat candidates to run for office because the primary races truly would be competitive and open, separating the wheat from the chafe. In other words candidates would have to have their act together because independents, Republicans and every other non-Democrat vote would count.

Voters also need to expand their political viewpoint and stop blindly voting for Democrats. There is no political diversity on the DC Council. It is a body of Democrats. With all the scandals and more on the horizon, I think it’s time for DC residents to try something new and give Republican candidates running for office serious consideration.  Why not? What do DC residents have to lose? Nothing could be worse than the crop of Donkeys we’ve got, making asses of us all.

Oh, What a Joke the DC Council Is: Harry Thomas Jr. Exhibit A

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

How can you  be an elected official  sued by an Attorney General for diverting (stealing) $300,000 in taxpayer money, have the FBI and IRS conduct an eight hour raid of your house, seize property and you still remain in office?  Only in DC government. Sadly, the behavior exhibited by Ward 5 council member Harry Thomas is what residents have come to expect from our elected officials: corruption or intent for unethical behavior.

Thomas can keep denying any wrongdoing until the cows come home but after this embarrassing ambush of his home, he really needs to give up the innocent act and resign from his seat immediately. This raid is surely a prelude to criminal charges which is even more reason for Thomas to step down and save what little face he has left. His constituents in Ward 5 who continue to stand by their man Harry, also really need to give up their hackneyed cries these are trumped up charges against Thomas because he’s black. These charges against Thomas are of his own making; he thought he could steal taxpayer money and get away with it. Race had nothing to do with it but stupidity and arrogance did.

But what’s more repugnant than Thomas’ behavior is the lack of condemnation and collective demand from his 12 other colleagues on the Council that Harry L Thomas Jr. resign. Council chair Kwame Brown’s lack of leadership and silence is particularly troubling. More on that later. Apparently, the council is considering asking Thomas to take a paid leave of absence and stripping him of his committee assignments amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Making DC government look even more farcical, like one big joke, is the council’s feeble attempt at ethics reform.  After scheduling hearings on ethics reform last month, council member Muriel Bowser drafted a bill without teeth. It still allows council members to maintain constituent service accounts, which are nothing more than slush funds they use to raise money and spend on anything but resident needs.  Washington Post columnist Colbert King commented recently about this mess Bowser created as “a toothless wonder.”

As the dust settles on this real-life corruption unfurling on the council, I bet DC council chair Kwame Brown is thinking he’s the next marked man in the line up for the federal raid brigade. The DC Board of Elections and Ethics referred his case to the US Attorney’s office in July. Apparently, Brown forget to report some $270,000 in 2008 campaign funds along with slipping his brother some $200, 000 to do “work for his campaign.”

It looks like truth or consequences time for some DC council members. But until DC residents start recalling candidates, demanding reforms and electing credible people to office, we all should grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the jokes the council keeps giving because it sure isn’t sound governance.

DC Politicians Are Their Own Reality TV

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Just when you think DC government and its band of corrupt politicians can’t get any worse, more scandal is unearthed. Attorney General Irvine Nathan filed a lawsuit June 6th in DC Superior Court, alleging Ward 5 Democrat Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. of stealing $300,000 in public funds to buy a $60,000 Audi SUV and fund trips to Las Vegas and the upscale Pebble Beach, CA. The lawsuit demands Thomas repay the money to the city plus damages to the tune of $1 million.

Responding to the Thomas scandal, DC Council Chairman Kwame “Fully-Loaded” Brown vowed to develop “a plan of action” to deal with these allegations. Brown has zero credibility in holding any councilmember accountable for wrong doing when he has been accused of failing to report $250,000 in campaign contributions during his 2008 campaign. The City Paper obtained emails proving three days after he was elected Chairman, Brown demanded the city lease two pimped Lincoln Navigators for him to drive.

Please, Brown promising to take seriously these allegations against Thomas is like Rep. Weiner telling the NYC court he’ll guard Strauss Kahn during his house arrest. If DC residents believe Brown’s pledge, they’ll believe anything.

The Washington Post aptly described DC’s state of affairs pregnant with scandals involving “top elected officials,” as “a government in disarray.” The same day Nathan accused Thomas of graft, Sulaimon Brown testified before the Council about his allegations Mayor Vincent Gray paid him to attack Fenty during the mayoral campaign in exchange for a job in the Gray administration. Sulaimon turned the hearing into a circus act by refusing to remove his dark sunglasses and rather than answer questions , he reminded councilmembers like Barry he never registered his Jaguar in the city and was driving around without tags and chastised Thomas about the city’s recently filed lawsuit against him.

But Sulaimon forgot Councilmember “I want to raise your taxes” Michael Brown’s ethical lapse of not paying his property taxes. And of course the icing on the cake of DC’s disgraced government is after a mere six months in office, Gray has been accused of running a quid pro quo administration, giving jobs to people who worked on his campaign but who weren’t qualified for the positions.

When are DC voters going to hold their elected officials accountable and start voting credible, competent people into office? Voters had a chance to vote Republican Patrick Mara into office for the at-large council seat but instead voted “been there and done that” Vincent Orange back into office. If you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same results.

Interview w/Patrick Mara, GOP Candidate for DC Council

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

?There is a special election coming up in DC April 26th to fill Kwame “Fully-Loaded” Brown’s council seat and much is at stake. Aside from ordering two pimped out/fully loaded Lincoln Navigators for the city to lease at $4,000 a month (paid for by taxpayers), Brown finds himself in a heap of other mess. The DC Campaign Finance Office found Brown’s 2008 re-election campaign “was not in substantial compliance with the District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act.”

Brown brushes this off as an administrative blunder but as the Chairman of the DC Council this looks very, very bad. The audit conducted by the DC Campaign Finance Office found Brown’s campaign didn’t account for hundreds of thousands of dollars and funneled over $200,000 to his brother Che Brown do campaign work. Of course Brown isn’t the only councilmember embroiled in controversy but his questionable behavior is worth noting for two reasons.

One, he is chair of the District’s legislative body and tasked with minding the District’s budget and these actions don’t demonstrate a fiscally responsible lawmaker. Second, Brown was one of the first Councilmembers to endorse Sekou Biddle to fill his seat. An endorsement Mr. Biddle fully embraced. It is important for DC voters to take note of the company Biddle keeps. He was also endorsed by Mayor Vincent Gray who is also embroiled in controversy around several people he hired to work in his administration.

With allegations of cronyism, corruption, and nepotism swirling around DC politicians, it is imperative for DC voters to consider a reform minded candidate with an ethics compass for the at-large council seat like Patrick Mara. To borrow a phrase coined by another blogger , Mara is “unbought and unbossed” by any DC politician. Having not been endorsed by any Councilmember, he can be agent for reform, something much needed in our ailing District government. If DC residents are tired of business as usual, wasteful spending, inefficient and unaccountable government and elected officials mired in ethics lapses; they need to get serious at the ballot AND think of launching some recall campaigns.

I asked Patrick a few questions about his campaign and here’s what he said.?

????With all the controversy of late surrounding the mayor and many Councilmembers including, Kwame “Fully-Loaded” Brown, Marion Barry’s unpaid traffic tickets and unregistered vehicle, Yvette Alexander’s allegations of fundraising violations, Michael Brown’s unpaid property and income taxes, and Tommy Thomas subject of DC Campaign Finance investigation, if you were elected to the Council, what would you do to help restore voter confidence in the legislative body?

As a member of the Council I will be the only truly independent voice. I will not look the other way when my colleagues continue the old ways of machine politics, capital cronyism, and outright corruption. This city desperately needs diversity of thought and a watchdog on the Council who will counter the clubby nature of DC government. I am proud to say that I am not endorsed by any Councilmembers and therefore will not beholden to anyone other than the voters. Acting as a voice of fiscal and ethical responsibility will help restore voter confidence in the DC Council.

Describe the three major platforms of your campaign? What are you going to do if elected to improve DC for all residents?

My campaign is focused on fiscal responsibility, continued education reform, and government accountability.

With a $320 million deficit the city needs to drastically cut spending; over the past decade the budget has grown by 78% and that is simply unsustainable. For too long, the Council and Mayor have spent money with no regard for the businesses and families who underwrite their profligate spending habits.

As a staunch education reform advocate and member of the DC State Board of Education, improving DC schools will play a key role in my agenda as Councilmember. I strongly support the Education reforms enacted by former Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee. I support fully funding DC Public Charter Schools and the Opportunity Scholarship program – these reforms have markedly improved education outcomes, particularly for children of low income families, and must not be reduced until we have quality schools in every DC neighborhood.

Finally, it is no secret to any informed DC voter that the ethical standard displayed by the current administration and Council is disgraceful. If elected, I will have no endorsements to repay, and I will be in the pocket of no special interests. I pledge to serve as the voters’ watchdog on the council and proudly publicize instances where my colleagues violate the public trust. We must put an end to the corruption rife in DC government now before we lose complete control of ethical standards.

For those residents, who aren’t Republican, why should they vote for you?

I am the only candidate running that can truly be an independent voice on the council. I am the last person that Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown, Mayor Gray, and other members of the Council want elected. I will put an end to the business as usual on the council. If DC residents are sick and tired of the same old wasteful spending and constant ethics violations then they should vote for me, a truly independent voice.

What is something most voters don’t know about Patrick Mara?

I am an avid mountain climber.

What part of town do you live in and what’s your favorite thing about living in DC?

I own a house in Columbia Heights and have watched that neighborhood grow and develop. It has been wonderful to see a neighborhood that at one time was under major economic and social distress and is now a flourishing and vibrant area.

Tell me a little bit about your current job?

I am the owner of The Dolan Group LLC., a consulting firm here in DC. I spend most of my time as the representative for Ward 1 on the State Board of Education. Education is very important to me and I spend my time making sure DC schools are continually improving.

Why do you have such a passion for volunteering with young people and what kind of volunteer work have you done over the years?

Over the years I have tutored 9 underprivileged boys in DC. I have watching 8 of them grow up and become the first generation in their families to go to college. I am still working with the 9th and hope he will one day attend college too. DC’s youth are the future of this city, and we need to give them the opportunities they deserve. I truly enjoy working with these students and helping in whatever modest way I can.

In the next five years, what do you feel are the biggest challenges to DC and how would you tackle these issues?

I believe our biggest challenge is tackling the massive deficit. Wasteful and irrational spending over the years has led to unsustainable spending levels. The city cannot continue to spend at this level without an economic disaster. I will work on the Council to bring spending back down to a level that reflects population growth. This will be accomplished by thorough review of all city contracts, an increase in transparency, and a comprehensive tax restructuring to make DC a more attractive place start a business, create jobs, and raise a family.

To find out more about Patrick Mara, and his positions on other topics, you can go to http://patrickmara.com/