Vincent Orange seeks probe into rival's finances
Former D.C. council member Vincent Orange is calling for an investigation into the campaign finance practices of Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), his rival in next month's Democratic primary race to replace Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.
Orange plans to file a complaint with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance Tuesday morning that raises questions about what he says are irregularities and inaccuracies in Brown's fundraising reports from his previous elections in 2004 and 2008. Orange's campaign said late Monday that it would present campaign finance officials with records that show $73,000 in "unaccounted for" campaign expenses from Brown's re-election bid four years ago.
Brown's campaign spokesman James Jones called the move by Orange's campaign "clearly an act of desperation," and said Monday that "people are getting tired of negative campaigning." He said that Brown is "fully in compliance with campaign finance rules."
But Orange's campaign said that the "missing funds" were not accounted for until Brown filed an updated report this month. The amendment was filed, Orange said, after an inquiry from a television reporter.
In response to Orange's accusations, Brown's spokesman said that the $73,000 in question was the result of "an error in the report" that the campaign had discovered, and was working to correct after consulting the Office of Campaign Finance -- and before being approached by a reporter.
Orange also questions Brown's 2004 campaign account, which he says in a news release owed the Internal Revenue Service at least $8,000. According to Orange, Brown also updated this report to show a payment to the IRS described as a "loan repayment" that was not previously recorded.
Brown's campaign said the charge from the IRS was due to a "filing error." Jones said the campaign does not agree that it ever owed taxes, and is continuing discussions with the IRS.
"Obviously, campaign finance committees do not pay taxes," Jones said. "It took some time to work things out with the IRS."
In the final two weeks of the campaign, Orange, who is an accountant, appears to be using questions about Brown's campaign finance practices to revive earlier reports of his personal financial troubles. Brown has been sued for non-payment by three credit card companies and estimates that his personal debts total $700,000, a figure that includes the mortgage on his Hillcrest home.
Brown, who chairs the council's economic development committee, has said his financial problems would not affect his ability to lead the council. And reports of his debts do not appear to have impacted his fundraising or endorsements. He has the support of all but one of his council colleagues and has picked up endorsements from most of the major labor, business and environmental groups.
-- Ann E. Marimow
August 31, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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