On Saturday the 6th District Committee held their first official meeting with their new Chairman, Jennifer M. Brown. By the end of that meeting Ms. Brown learned that the politics of personal destruction never pay off in the end, especially when the people you attempt to destroy are the very ones you are supposed to be leading.
Just days before the 6th District Convention in May, two supporters of Jennifer Brown (Anne Seaton and Georgia Alvis-Long) filed FEC complaints against then 6th District Chairman, Scott Sayre, and the 6th District Committee alleging various campaign finance allegations. These complaints were filed so they could be used by Jennifer Brown’s campaign and their constant allegations of corruption against the committee. They were also filed to hamstring the committee in case Scott Sayre won re-election. Once the convention was over and Jennifer Brown had won many people, including myself, urged that those complaints be withdrawn. In a post convention wrap-up I wrote the following:
It was reported that two last minute FEC complaints were filed before the convention. One of them is focused on the 6th District Committee and it’s campaign finance reports. While intended to be used against Scott Sayre, the fallout of this complaint will actually land on the 6th District and its new Chairman, Jennifer Brown.
“The second complaint is actually much worse. It seeks to have Sayre Enterprises put under review by the Inspector General’s of the GSA and the Defense Department, to have its Federal contracts revoked, and be barred from bidding on new ones. This would most likely result in Sayre Enterprises going out of business and all of its employees on the unemployment line. What was the crime committed by Mr. Sayre to deserve this potential punishment? He allowed the 6th District Committee to meet in one of his conference rooms for free.
Whether these complaints were actually filed or whether they were just last minute stunts is yet to be determined. For the sake of the 6th District let us hope that they were never filed, or if they were that they are able to be withdrawn, especially since Mr. Sayre could most likely remedy the threat to his company by submitting a large bill to the 6th District Committee for unpaid rent, and the committee would have that much less money to help Ben Cline’s election efforts.”
Unfortunately neither complaint was withdrawn and the 6th District Committee, now led by Jennifer Brown, must defend itself against the negative tactics of the Brown campaign, and they did exactly that. On Saturday night a motion was made to retain the Bopp Law Firm as legal counsel to represent “the 6th District Committee, its current and previous Treasurers and Secretaries and its previous Chairman, from the accusations made in complaints to the Federal Election Commission.” Up to $30,000 was approved to pay the legal fees for this representation, which makes up the bulk of the committee’s budget.
What is surprising about this situation is not the hiring of legal counsel. This was the most fiscally and legally responsible thing the committee could do. When faced with a legal complaint, you hire a lawyer. No, what is truly surprising is the vehement opposition to this move by Jennifer Brown and her supporters. After the meeting Jennifer Brown posted this note on Facebook:
“In order to maintain my promise of honesty and transparency as Chair of the 6th District, I would like to report that the following individuals voted to unnecessarily appropriate $30,000 of your money to pay for an attorney in Terre Haute, IN, without any research into other firms, and without providing a CV to the Committee, in order to represent Cynthia Dunbar, (whom the firm has been representing for several months), Scott Sayre, Hud McWilliams and the 6th District Committee with regards to the three FEC complaints, validly filed by fellow 6th District Republicans:
This is money that should be used for campaign activities to support our Congressional and Senatorial candidates. These are the same individuals that promised you fiscal responsibility. Please feel free to hold them accountable, as it is your money.”
Let’s walk through the problems with this statement one by one:
- The claim that spending this money was “unnecessary” is completely ludicrous. Does Jennifer Brown expect an unpaid volunteer with no legal experience to represent the Committee in an official legal complaint? Would she represent herself in court?
- The statement that the committee hired “an attorney in Terre Haute, IN” and that there was no resume provided is a purposeful attempt to hide the fact that the committee hired the best election law attorney in the country. James Bopp, Jr. is the attorney who won the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court. You aren’t going to get better representation than him for an election law issue.
- The claim that this money will be used to represent Cynthia Dunbar is patently false and a blatant attempt by Jennifer Brown to try and shift the blame for this situation away from herself and her “scorched earth” campaign strategy. The motion to retain legal counsel states explicitly that “funds shall be expended pursuant to this motion in defense of the 6th District Committee, its current and previous Treasurers and Secretaries and its previous Chairman, and for no other persons.” That means Cynthia Dunbar is not covered by these funds. Jennifer Brown knows this and chose to blatantly lie to people.
So much for honesty and transparency.
Jennifer was not the only one to take to the internet to express her displeasure with the 6th District Committee doing the right thing. Newly elected 6th District Central Regional Vice Chairman, Craig Storrs, condemns his fellow committee members for taking prudent action and confidently declares this move is premature, since the FEC is, in his words, “merely requesting information” at this stage. I suppose in Craig’s mind it is also premature for President Trump to have retained a cadre of lawyers to deal with special counsel Mueller’s investigation since he is “merely requesting information” at this point.
What Jennifer Brown and Craig Storrs don’t seem to understand is that any adverse ruling will not be levied against merely the Treasurer of the Committee or the Chairman. The 6th District Committee ITSELF is financially liable. If any of these complaints goes against them, the 6th District will be levied with substantial fines that will most likely be far more than the $30,000 the committee voted to spend to defend itself. Not only that, but the Committee could then be put under a microscope and subject to additional reporting requirements and audits that can last for years.
Jennifer and Craig may be more than happy to let Scott Sayre and the committee Treasurer personally twist in the wind, but as members of the committee they have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the committee, and that means mounting a proper legal defense to these complaints. If they are unable to move past their own political grudges and do what is best for the 6th District committee they should resign their positions.
This situation is the perfect example of why you don’t go negative in an intra-party contest. Day after day Jennifer Brown and her supporters called members of the 6th District Committee corrupt. Day after day they smeared the reputations of fellow Republicans simply because they supported a different candidate for Chairman and for Congress. Now that the campaign is over these “win at any cost” campaign tactics have made it nearly impossible to bring the party back together again.
Jennifer Brown and her campaign are responsible for the FEC complaints filed against the 6th District committee. For her to now complain about the committee doing the fiscally and legally prudent thing by retaining legal counsel demonstrates both a naivete towards Federal Election Laws and a lack of competent leadership skills, which is a dangerous combination in a newly elected Chairman of a Federal Legislative District Committee.
If Jennifer Brown wants to avoid spending committee funds to pay lawyers to defend against these FEC complaints she should ask her supporters to withdraw those complaints. If she wants to be an effective District Chairman for the next two years, she needs to realize that the campaign for Chairman is over and to stop treating members of the committee she now leads as the enemy. If she’s not careful, her only legacy will be to cost Ben Cline a seat in Congress and put the Speaker’s gavel back in Nancy Pelosi’s hand.