Corrine Brown: 'The goal is to take me out'

I-Team learns more about various allegations against congresswoman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Corrine Brown, the 10-term congresswoman who is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and a House ethics subcommittee and in the middle of a court fight over her district boundaries, believes there is a concerted effort to get her out of office.

'The goal is to take me out. I realize that. That is a good example," Brown told News4Jax when asked about the latest investigation. 

The U.S. House ethics subcommittee formed to investigate Brown, D-Jacksonville, has voted to defer its work at the request of the Justice Department.

The panel was charged with looking into allegations that Brown may have improperly solicited charitable donations, used campaign money for personal use and failed to comply with tax laws.

Brown said Thursday that she can't talk specifically about the investigation but feels it is somehow connected with the radical change to her congressional district. A hearing on her challenge to the redrawn Florida congressional districts is scheduled for Friday in federal court in Tallahassee.

"They're all together. The goal is to get rid of Corrine Brown," she said.

Allegations mount against Corrine Brown

The ethics committee's statement did not provide further details of its investigation, but earlier this month Carla Wiley, a close associate of Brown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to testify as part of a larger probe into the activities of a Leesburg, Virginia-based charity called One Door for Education.

Court filings show Wiley deposited $800,000 into the group's bank account over the past four years but gave out one $1,000 scholarship. Wiley transferred thousands of dollars to herself; the money was also used to fund parties, an NFL luxury box, and other extravagances in Washington.

The court papers say the funds were used to benefit individuals identified only as Person A and Person B. Separate documents obtained by The Associated Press in a public records request to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer correspond to some allegations in the federal court documents that "Person A" is Brown.

Some of the group's revenue came from a July 2013 golf tournament held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. An early draft of the flyer obtained by the News4Jax I-Team called it a congressional golf tournament to benefit the Conference on Minority Transportation Officials Jacksonville Chapter Scholarship Fund.

The Conference on Minority Transportation Officials, which described its mission as "to ensure a level playing field and maximum participation in the transportation industry for minority individuals," was headed at one point by a Jacksonville Transportation Authority employee, who asked Von Alexander, a Brown congressional staffer who has also done contract work for the JTA, "Who is the One Door Education Foundation?"

Alexander responded that the foundation's website, which was being set up, would explain everything.

UNCUT: Corrine Brown's interview with Jim Piggott

Questions have also been raised about why Alexander was employed in Brown's Jacksonville congressional office staff and getting paid as a subcontractor of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority -- a group Brown works with as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

House of Representatives payroll records show Von Alexander was paid $6,200 in the fourth quarter of 2015 and she had been a paid member of Brown's staff since 2010.

"I am the transportation guru, period. I'm working for the port, airport, JTA< that's who I am. And veterans," Brown said. "I don't care what they're saying. "You know, it's one side of the ledger. When is the other side going to come out?"

Brown talked to News4Jax as she was heading to Tallahassee for a hearing on whether to grant Brown's request to throw out Florida's current congressional districts. Brown maintains that a congressional map approved last year by the state Supreme Court violates federal voting rights laws. The new map shifts Brown's district from one that runs from Jacksonville to Orlando to one that stretches westward beyond Tallahassee. Brown has sharply criticized the map and says it illegally diminishes the voting clout of minorities.

"When you look at this, clearly who drew this district knew that this was a nonperforming district. It would not produce an African-American, not even a Democrat," Brown said.

This is also not the first time Brown has been investigated by a House ethics subcommittee. A $50,000 car bought by an African banker and registered to Brown's daughter was investigated in 1999. The report found Brown had lobbied to keep the banker's boss out of prison after a conviction for bribery. The subcommittee took no action, but its findings criticized Brown.

About the Authors: