Corrine Brown Archives - Page 7 of 30 - Florida Politics

Democrat Al Lawson downplays GOP donor interest in his CD 5 campaign

After a debate Thursday night that focused on Corrine Brown and her legal issues, Congressional District 5 Democrat Al Lawson had to address issues of his own in the post-debate presser.

Specifically, $14,000 in money from political committees since July 1 — many of which, such as U.S. SugarAssociated Builders and Contractors, and I-PAC Jax … line up almost exclusively behind Republican candidates.

Thus, a salient question: what explains GOP donor interest in Lawson?

Is the Blue Dog Democrat actually a Republican Trojan Horse?

Lawson downplayed the implication that he might be, in the eyes of donors, a DINO.

“Eighty percent [of my contributions] come from individuals,” Lawson said, adding that “legislators in this area get money from United States Sugar” and “nobody put more money into [my] campaign than I did.”

Lawson put $100,000 into his campaign earlier in the cycle.

“I was the Democratic leader of the Senate … the Dean of the Florida Legislature,” Lawson added, saying there’s “no problem on whether I’m a Democrat or not.”

GOP donor activity in Lawson’s candidacy is especially interesting because he will face reliable Republican Glo Smith in the general election should he win the primary Aug. 30. And because in Jacksonville and throughout the district, there are a not-inconsiderable amount of registered Democrats who vote Republican.

Brown made an issue of Lawson working “too closely” with Republicans during the debate that preceded the gaggle, including alleging — wrongly — that Susie Wiles, the Florida co-chair of the Donald Trump campaign, was Lawson’s campaign manager.

He had a message to CD 5 Democrats, as Corrine Brown looked on before her catastrophic press availability that followed.

“Why do you want to waste your vote on someone [who has been] indicted, [who has a] problem with lawyers?”

An exhausted Brown, slumped over in a chair, had a wry smile fixed on her face as she listened to her opponent’s personal attack while getting ready for a more intense experience with the press than she had on the debate stage minutes before.

Uncensored: Corrine Brown talks pedophilia, Marion Barry in post-debate interview

“What if I said I thought you was a pedophile? You’d think something was wrong with me.”

Those words, voiced on the debate stage Thursday night at Jacksonville University by incumbent 5th District Rep. Corrine Brown, recurred during a post debate presser where FloridaPolitics.com and other outlets asked Brown about her legal troubles, her financial troubles, and, most compellingly, where the buck actually stops in terms of the suspect accounting of One Door for Education, for which she faces 22 federal counts.

“If I said ‘young man, you a pedophile’, that’s a charge,” Brown said to a reporter, by way of attempting to establish that an accusation is not tantamount to conviction, “because somebody makes an accusation against you doesn’t make you guilty.”

Of course, we mentioned the difference between loose talk and a 49-page indictment detailing dozens of transactions over an almost four-year period.

She then, in the way some incumbents in Jacksonville do, attacked the media.

“I’m not going to say y’all lazy, but you need to do your job,” Brown said, deflecting a question regarding who is responsible for the alleged malfeasance of One Door for Education if she isn’t.

Perhaps thinking the third time was the charm for the pedophile analogy, Brown used the phrase again, before saying something that was, at least if the 10 p.m. newscasts were any indication, too hot for TV, referring to the charges as “some bullshit,” a “Peyton Place witch hunt.”

But wait. There’s more.

Brown also compared herself to former D.C. mayor Marion Barry, arrested in 1990 for smoking crack in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, then muttering “[expletive deleted] set me up” repeatedly.

“The prosecutors told one of my attorneys that Corrine Brown wouldn’t win re-election,” saying she was “just like the mayor of D.C.”

In addition to the hot quotes, there was also bathos, with an exhausted Brown having to sit down before talking to the media and during her availability.

When asked about her anemic $25,000 cash-on-hand in the campaign, and the loss of a third set of lawyers on Thursday, Brown said “yes” that she was having a cash issue.

“It’s a very challenging balance running a campaign and [paying] legal bills,” Brown said, “but I’ve done everything I need to do to campaign.”

Time will tell if that’s the case.

She said that she has a “lean, mean [legal] team,” but given that she lost her last lawyers within two days of hiring them, as they cited “hostility and distrust” from Brown, there are questions.

Among them: who really knows what that team looks like, how competent it will be, or if they will be able to work better with Brown any better than the pair that dropped the case Thursday.

Corrine Brown battles Al Lawson, accumulated scandal in CD 5 debate

There are rough weeks. And then there’s whatever Corrine Brown is experiencing this week, as she girds herself for a fourth change of counsel in her federal case and a re-election campaign where she entered the last three weeks with $25,000 in the bank … a number more appropriate for a school board seat than a run for Congress.

Corrine Brown may have, as soon as next week, a court-appointed lawyer as she faces 22 counts for One Door for Education. But she won’t have a court-appointed campaign manager. Nor will she have much other help, as Jacksonville Republicans and many Democrats seem increasingly comfortable with the calming presence of Al Lawson.

If she were to make a stand, an appeal to voters in her home base, it would have to be Thursday night, at a televised debate at Jacksonville University.

And it would be against the odds.

Lawson and Brown showed up for a knife fight. Compared to the tedium of the CD 4 debate the night before, it was great theater. As it should be, given this will be the last campaign for one or the other of them.

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In a debate with an incumbent under indictment, policy positions aren’t what people are interested in; it’s about conflict.

Brown got the opening statement, and it was more muted than what was to come.

“God bless America, and he has because you’re here tonight,” Brown said, leading with very little edge and a respectful tone, as if begging Lawson (or third candidate L.J. Holloway) to go negative early.

It didn’t happen on the intros.

Brown, when asked about the challenges of the redrawn district that she fought in court for close to a year, used her “let the work I’ve done speak for me” line, talking about projects she’s brought back to Florida for veterans.

People in the district, she said, want “personalized service … a member that knows how to get things done.”

Holloway didn’t address her lawsuit. And Lawson, surprisingly, kept it anodyne and positive also, not going on the attack against Brown.

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HUD and Eureka Garden, and federal oversight, constituted the next topic.

Lawson has said in the past that Brown didn’t do enough on this, saying, “HUD, along with Ms. Brown, has failed these people for 20-some years.”

Brown countered that the HUD problem is not just in Jacksonville; it has been elsewhere in the state.

“HUD has gotten squeezed through the budget process,” Brown said, before talking about the redistricting that helped her get to office in 1992.

Lawson looped back to Eureka: “No one paid attention to them … looking like people living in a Third World country.

“My opponent was busy being wined and dined in Congress instead of helping the people,” Lawson said.

Brown countered that she has worked on the issue, adding, “Rubio [only] came to Jacksonville after he decided to run for the Senate.”

Holloway, meanwhile, bemoaned “recycled politicians” bickering, struggling to gain relevance in this debate. And failing.

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Brown’s court troubles were next. When asked about the prosecutors’ contention that One Door is a slush fund, Brown said “the 5th Amendment means prosecutors have to prove their case,” likening her defense (for reasons that no one sane can guess) to the hypothetical of the moderator being accused of being a pedophile.

“I feel the media is the fourth branch of government. Do your job. Don’t let someone give you a slip of paper,” Brown said.

Lawson noted Brown has “violated the public trust. I don’t think my opponent needs to be in this race.”

Brown says people want her to run, throughout the district:

“It’s very strange that they brought these charges just after qualifying … they don’t want me in office.”

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A while back, Brown contended that the feds allowed Pulse to happen because they were too busy investigating her to properly vet and prevent Omar Mateen‘s rampage.

Lawson was “embarrassed” by the analogy, because “there was no relationship” between the two.

Brown wanted to “move on to talk about issues my constituents are concerned with,” meanwhile, before getting flustered in a response that wasn’t especially coherent to this observer.

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After some time passed, Brown charged that lobbyist and Republican operative Susie Wiles is “running Lawson’s campaign,” and Lawson said “we just had a discussion on the issues.”

“I don’t know why my opponent’s referring to it, she just needs something to say,” Lawson, who is getting GOP money in this campaign, said.

Brown billed herself as a “yellow dog Democrat,” as opposed to Lawson, who’s “too comfortable” with working with Republicans.

During another exchange, when Lawson said Brown’s mind wasn’t on Tallahassee, Brown countered that her mind has “been on Washington for the last 24 years.”

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There was policy discussion, yes, but this is a referendum on character. The personal is always political, and for Corrine Brown, the political is personal.

Will a notable Jacksonville Democrat endorse Lawson in the next few days? That is worth watching.

Al Lawson reports $120K COH in pre-primary filing, GOP money in play

A congressional candidate’s “pre-primary filing” is a good indication of how he or she will close, and compared to incumbent Rep. Corrine Brown (who has an anemic $25,000) as of Aug. 10, challenger Al Lawson reports $120,000 cash-on-hand ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.

From July 1 to Aug. 10, Lawson raised $49,888, with $1,000 from Brian Ballard standing out among the $35,888 in individual contributions.

Lawson also got $14,000 in money from political committees, including $5,000 from I-PAC Jax, a committee that gave Ron DeSantis and Ander Crenshaw money in recent years.

U.S. Sugar, which has given money to Rick Scott and Marco Rubio in the past, also backs Lawson.

As does the Associated Builders and Contractors, which otherwise exclusively backs GOP candidates.

Will Lawson’s money from Republican-friendly political committees matter? Find out during Thursday night’s debate involving CD 5 candidates on WJXT-TV and News4Jax.com.

After two days, Corrine Brown lawyers look to withdraw from case

On Thursday, Corrine Brown’s lawyers in her federal case regarding One Door for Education — a charity she was associated with that functioned more as a slush fund, according to prosecutors — abruptly withdrew from representing her after just two days, citing “irreconcilable differences.”

This is the third loss of legal representation Brown has had since the July indictment, raising real questions as to what kind of defense can be rendered, especially since the latest set of lawyers lack the gravitas of the previous two (Bill Sheppard/Betsy White and Greg Kehoe, respectively.)

NeJame’s firm was hired before Tuesday’s status of counsel conference, replacing Kehoe, who lasted exactly one court appearance before withdrawing.

“The relationship between the undersigned and Corrine Brown has quickly deteriorated to the point of having irreconcilable differences. The nature of these communications are confidential, but suffice to say, irreconcilable differences exist and the relationship is strained where effective representation is compromised,” wrote David Haas, who was representing Brown, along with Mark NeJame.

“As a result, it has created an atmosphere of hostility and distrust not conducive to further representation. Furthermore, a material and significant difference of opinion exists as to case management and the needs of counsel to properly prepare with the client and the client’s availability,” Haas added.

“NeJame Law will return 100 percent of all fees received so that Corrine Brown has all available resources to retain counsel,” Haas continues, adding that the feds “requested that Corrine Brown attend any status conference to determine status of counsel.”

According to U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, Brown has another status conference “on Aug. 24, 2016 at 11 a.m. before the undersigned, in Courtroom No. 10D, Tenth Floor, United States Courthouse, 300 N. Hogan St., Jacksonville, Florida.”

“The Court will be very reluctant to continue this hearing. At least one attorney for each party is required to appear in person at the status conference,” reads Corrigan’s order.

With NeJame Law refunding fees, that leaves Brown without a lawyer. NeJame’s office confirmed both lawyers and the firm are off this case.

The feds want to require Brown to be present at the Wednesday status conference, noting that “trial in this case is currently set on the October 2016 trial term. The motions deadline is Sept. 1, 2016. At this juncture, at which Brown’s legal representation continues to be uncertain, those Court deadlines are becoming unrealistic. However, Brown must secure representation (lasting longer than two business days) so the Court and the government can meaningfully participate in case scheduling discussions.”

“This is now Brown’s third set of lawyers who have either filed an appearance or appeared in Court with Brown. While at this early stage of the Nejame Law Firm’s representation, the government recognizes a 100 percent refund of the representation fee and the short length of the representation militates toward permitting the Nejame Law Firm to withdraw, the representation issue must be settled, or addressed in some other manner.”

“At the Aug. 24, 2016 status conference, or at any hearing set in the interim, the government intends to raise the issue of whether Brown should have counsel appointed to her, with a requirement that Brown reimburse the Court for fees incurred by a Court-appointed attorney, or whether Brown is seeking by default to represent herself, at which point the Court would set a hearing to conduct a Faretta inquiry with Brown,” the prosecution attests.

NeJame Law is known for high-profile cases, with principal Mark NeJame billing himself as the “Johnnie Cochran of Orlando.” He has represented Casey Anthony’s parents, Rep. Alan Grayson in his ugly divorce trial, and Tiger Woods in the past.

He did reject George Zimmerman, however. And now, Corrine Brown.

Rough times for the incumbent, who certainly will be asked about this matter during Thursday’s televised debate.

Al Lawson outlines his path to victory over Corrine Brown

Florida’s Congressional District 5 has seemed to be the tale of two districts: Jacksonville — and “North Florida” out west.

It’s been assumed Corrine Brown, no matter the strengths of her primary opponent Al Lawson, would carry Duval County, compelling Lawson to stack votes out west.

However, an internal poll from Lawson’s camp shows that, since Brown’s indictment, Lawson is up by 8 points in Duval County.

If that poll is correct, then it’s a game changer.

Lawson has a serious cash-on-hand advantage — $120,000 will show in his next filing, versus the $25,000 Brown has — and she is having serious trouble, Lawson said, reaching the rest of the district.

Brown, said Lawson, is concentrating on Gadsden and Leon counties, and to that end, she is headed out west with regular surrogate Martin Luther King III in tow.

“I don’t know how much she pays him. I don’t know how much he offers my district,” Lawson said.

“What can Martin Luther King III tell the constituents I’ve had for 28 years?”

Lawson handles his business differently than a lot of Jacksonville Democrats. He doesn’t make a habit of campaigning in churches. And he doesn’t need a “third party” to help him work a room.

Of course, there are caveats to that: a friend who helped set up the interview Lawson had with FloridaPolitics.com Thursday was Susie Wiles, the Jacksonville powerbroker most closely identified with GOP administrations, who most recently has been Florida co-chair for the Donald Trump campaign.

Lawson has a good relationship with the Ballard Partners lobbying firm in Tallahassee, Wiles said.

And, while on the subject, Lawson has done really well interacting and advancing priorities for his constituents with Republicans over the years. He was instrumental in working with Gov. Jeb Bush to get a law school at FAMU, to name one example.

Compared to Brown, whose contentious relationships with the media and pyrotechnic quotes have become a cliche with the press corps, Lawson is exceedingly good at meeting people where they are.

“I’ve never been in a district that’s more than 26 percent African-American,” Lawson said.

In other words, he’s made a political career predicated on the North Florida Way, building coalitions with conservative Democrats and Republicans both in the Legislature and at the polling place.

And that’s a danger for Brown.

Lawson hasn’t hammered Brown on the 22 federal counts related to her involvement in the One Door for Education case, but Thursday night will see a direct attack on Brown’s integrity.

“She’s lived a great life. A lot of stuff’s been handed to her,” said Lawson, adding that Brown “violated the public trust.”

Lawson, who has known Brown since both were in the Legislature in the 1980s, said she had “issues” dating back to that bygone era.

The One Door case is the next level, though. And Lawson believes it is salient.

“At first, those were just charges,” Lawson said, but after the indictment, a “long paper trail” was exposed.

“I don’t see how you can ask constituents to vote for someone who has been indicted,” Lawson said.

Worth noting: Brown and Lawson maintained a good relationship over the years, with Brown even showing up at a D.C. fundraiser for Lawson in 2012.

Were they friends?

“We are associates,” Lawson said, adding that when they last talked 10 to 12 months ago, Brown gave him no indication she was running in this district.

“She told me she only wanted to run in Jacksonville or Orlando, not in northern Florida,” Lawson said about the conversation held when Brown was legally challenging the new CD 5 map.

Lawson jumped in. Brown jumped in later. But by then it was too late, as Lawson’s campaign was in full swing.

The case that Lawson needs to make tp Jacksonville voters who might be skeptical of him — especially Democrats who don’t know him — is predicated on his knowledge of local priorities.

There has been a learning curve, but he seems to have conquered most of it. He understands local priorities as including jobs, securing federal funds for river dredging (while being cognizant of the ecological impact), education (as the city has “20 failing schools”), and the protection of natural resources.

Is that enough? Or is the “Corrine Delivers” mantra going to carry her, yet again, to strong support among Duval Dems, perhaps strong enough for her to get the nomination again?

Thursday night’s debate at Jacksonville University will answer those questions to a considerable degree.

Kim Daniels accused of ‘doctored’ Quick Picks

14079742_10209831459720867_2821104470929277588_nCongresswoman Corrine Brown, on her “Quick Picks,” left the House District 14 race blank, despite having endorsed Leslie Jean-Bart first, then Kim Daniels more recently.

Brown did not endorse in House Districts 13 or 14, saying on the Quick Picks sheet that there’s a “great slate” of candidates and she would be happy with any of them.

However, it seems Daniels interpreted that as an oversight.

Earlier this week, Daniels distributed a revised version of the document, in which she filled in her bubble in HD 14 and that of Reggie Fullwood (also left blank) in HD 13.

Daniels was called out on that, and then printed her own version of the document, failing to include a disclaimer, according to Jean-Bart, who provided a copy of the document.

“After Sen. [Audrey] Gibson pointed out the doctored Corrine Quick Picks, my opponent switched tactics to create her own QPs. However, in violation of the election law (again), the picks fail to include a disclaimer and a candidate CANNOT contribute anything of value to other candidates while promoting herself. Once again, she is engaging in voter deception and violating the law. Her desperation and lack of integrity are evident,” Jean-Bart wrote on Facebook Thursday.

This wasn’t the first campaign conflict over the Corrine Brown endorsement. Representatives from the two competing campaigns had a squabble this month in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood in Jacksonville about who was Corrine Brown’s real choice.

This also isn’t the first time Daniels has been accused of election law improprieties.

She dealt with campaign finance complaints in 2015, including using campaign funds to promote a personal, non-political endeavor; specifically, promotion of her book, “The Demon Dictionary.”

As of Aug. 10, Corrine Brown had under $25K on hand for re-election bid

Is Corrine Brown‘s political career over? Her bleak campaign finance report suggests that’s the case.

The re-election campaign of Rep. Corrine Brown in the newly drawn Congressional District 5 is facing existential challenges. She faces 22 federal counts, the Florida Times-Union endorsed opponent Al Lawson, and her campaign has $24,700 on hand as of Aug. 10.

Brown’s money has come largely from PACs in the filing period between July 1 and Aug. 10, with donations also from Rep. Barbara Lee, and defeated Jacksonville City Council candidate George Spencer.

Lockheed Martin gave $1,000 in the most recent reporting period, and $5,000 in aggregate.

The General Electric PAC gave $1,000 in the most recent reporting period, raising them to $6,000 in aggregate.

Her spending has been more fitting of a state House race than a race for Congress, with $1,283 in “petty cash” standing out, and little in the way of paid media except for spots on a Jacksonville gospel radio station.

Her campaign has $17,175 in debts and obligations to external parties, and $53,300 in personal loans from the congresswoman.

The new filing of Al Lawson, her major opponent, is still pending.

But he had, as of the end of June, $171,000 on hand.

Corrine Brown chooses Alan Grayson’s divorce lawyer as her counsel

On Tuesday, Rep. Corrine Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, had a status of counsel hearing regarding their One Door for Education case.

One of the two has counsel. And the other failed to appear initially, causing confusion among court officers and the faithful press, though his new lawyer filed a notice of appearance after 4:00 on Tuesday.

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The big news: Brown’s new attorney is almost assured of grandstanding in this case, seeking headlines and building his brand at the expense of what’s left of Brown’s reputation and political career.

Mark NeJame and David Haas are her new attorneys, both from Orlando, in what is the third change of counsel for Brown, who had retained Bill Sheppard and Betsy White at first, then had Greg Kehoe as her attorney at her last court appearance.

NeJame has a history in Florida political circles of recent vintage, and a history with a lot of high-profile cases  — this being one of them.

NeJame was Alan Grayson‘s divorce attorney, notable for messaging against the domestic violence allegations against the “congressman with guts.”

“Lolita is a disturbed woman. She has made one false allegation after another. Her own daughter refutes her,” said NeJame, adding that “there never has been a witness or any proof whatsoever of her claims. The claims have been so ridiculous that not one time has there even been enough probable cause to bring a charge or an arrest against Alan Grayson.”

NeJame, who bills himself as Orlando’s Johnnie Cochran, lacks the pedigree of the attorneys preceding him, but makes up for it with a penchant for self-promotion.

While he refused to represent George Zimmerman, he did represent the parents of Casey Anthonyand Tiger Woods in their high-profile cases in recent years.

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Simmons, like Brown, was in limbo in terms of counsel.

Anthony Suarez, an attorney from Orlando with a history in GOP politics, is representing Simmons, but no notice of appearance was filed until after 4:00 p.m., an hour after the hearing.

That caused confusion.

“He should be in this courtroom at this time,” federal Judge James Klindt said.

“It’s possible that Simmons has been advised that a notice of appearance was filed,” said Klindt, who said that he was considering having a marshal serve Simmons, while trying to contact Suarez.

“It could be … a failure of communication … or that Suarez is having trouble filing his notice of appearance,” Klindt said.

The court was recessed as Klindt attempted to contact a U.S. Marshal, with a resumption at 4:30 p.m., at which point the notice of appearance had been filed.

Simmons believed the notice of appearance had been filed, which kicks off this defense nicely.

Aug. 24 at 11 a.m. will be the next status conference in this case.

Corrine Brown releases Quick Picks, passes on pension-tax vote

Relying on Corrine Brown to guide your vote on Jacksonville’s County Referendum 1? You might want to consider a different resource; she’s got nothing to say on the matter.

Rep. Brown’s “Quick Picks” leave the ballot option blank. When asked about her take on the referendum for the “pension tax” on Monday, she delivered a “no comment.”

Brown backed Patrick Murphy for Senate, which doesn’t surprise anyone, given that Murphy and Brown traveled together this year on Air Force One.

Bruce Anderson and Mark Hulsey were Brown’s picks for Circuit Judge. Hulsey is notable; the incumbent faces an investigation for alleged racist and sexist comments made in the workplace.

Brown did not endorse in House Districts 13 or 14, saying that there’s a “great slate” of candidates and she would be happy with any of them.

Notable: in HD 14, candidates Kim Daniels and Leslie Jean-Bart both were endorsed by Brown. Campaign teams for both candidates had a spirited disagreement about the value of Jean-Bart’s endorsement from Brown, received before Daniels got in the race.

Brown, when asked about her take on this earlier this month, refrained from comment. And now, she has refrained from having either candidate as a Quick Pick.

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