Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Needed to Be Held Accountable

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Needed to Be Held Accountable

Article excerpt

When former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was sentenced to five years in federal prison, it was a sad but appropriate result of a case of public corruption.

The fact that Brown had often been an effective advocate for her constituents was a key reason why she deserved a prison sentence.

She had used her good works to create a sham charity, raising money that was supposed to go for scholarships for needy students. Instead much of that money went for the personal benefit of Brown and her close associates.

These two elements - Brown's good works and using her position for illegal personal purposes - are linked.

People in occupations of high public trust - such as law enforcement, government, education, the clergy, journalism, etc. - are held to higher standards.

So when they act in corrupt fashion, the betrayal of the public's trust is even more profound.

Too often, Brown made maintaining the public's trust secondary to satisfying her personal ambition, such as when she doggedly fought for an absurdly drawn congressional district because it would be more likely to help her retain power.

Indeed, Brown's case is a good reason for term limits.

History will rightly note that she was the first African-American elected to Congress in Florida since the era of Reconstruction.

But Brown wrongly grew to regard her proud place in history as a free pass to indulge a sense of entitlement that clearly had few boundaries.

If term limits had been in effect, Brown would have been less able to accumulate such corrupting power.

In delivering Brown's sentence, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan noted the good works that were clearly part of the former congresswoman's record.

But he also noted that Brown had largely shown little to no remorse - and that she had often trotted out excuses that were "brazen" in their arrogance.

Brown had regrettably blamed race and the news media for the criminal charges. On the contrary, the Times-Union reporting staff did an admirable job of revealing the outlines of the sham charity, while the FBI and the justice system did their jobs without fear or favor.

Brown's claim that she was an unwitting victim of loyal aides flies in the face of her well-known record of relentlessly following through on projects that interest her. Playing the victim card is simply not convincing to anyone who has even met Brown.

She was nobody's victim.

The true victims are the children Brown professed to serve with scholarships. Instead, about $800,000 went for luxuries like lavish receptions and concert tickets.

"Ms. Brown leveraged the authority of her office and the relationships she had cultivated to illegal purpose," Corrigan said.

In the end, the motto "Corrine Delivers" turned into an indictment.

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