On Thursday, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics officially referred Brown's 2008 campaign to the U.S. Attorney's office, choosing to forgo a discussion about fines for the campaign and wait for the firepower of the FBI to determine if any laws were broken.
"The referral to the U.S. Attorney is considered the bigger of the sanctions," board of elections Chairman Togo West said Thursday. "We think there's criminal activity here and it needs to be looked into."
But the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. is already looking into the case.
|Top D.C. elected officials being investigated by federal authorities:|
|» D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and top members of his campaign are being probed by a grand jury to determine if they passed cash-stuffed envelopes to another mayoral candidate so he could stay in the race.|
|» Council Chairman Kwame Brown's 2008 at-large council campaign is being scrutinized by federal authorities for not reporting donations and contributions, among other items.|
|» The feds are looking into allegations leveled by the D.C. attorney general that Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. routed to his wallet more than $300,000 meant for kids baseball.|
"We are aware of today's action by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics and will take the information it provides into account as we continue to review this matter," a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney said.
An attorney for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance said federal investigators had met with auditors and taken records.
Those records -- and whatever federal investigators dig up -- could mean trouble for Brown, the third top D.C. elected official to find himself the subject of a federal investigation this year.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office would not be investigating unless there were felonies involved," said Joe diGenova, former U.S. attorney for D.C. "Once money is involved in any transaction, then you can get involved in all kinds of problems with financial institutions and taxes. ... This is not good news for Kwame Brown."
Both the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service declined to comment on the case.
On the civil side, Brown could face more than $50,000 in fines from the board of elections, officials said.
An April OCF audit of Brown's 2008 at-large campaign found that it failed to report $133,000 in contributions and more than $203,000 in expenses. The audit also found that Brown's campaign paid a company owned by a former campaign treasurer $400,000. That company, in turn, paid $240,000 to a company owned by Brown's brother Che. Last month OCF also said the campaign failed to report a $60,000 side account for which Che Brown was signatory. Brown issued a written statement on Thursday declaring his innocence.
"The [campaign] committee is confident that an investigation by the Office of the United States Attorney will be thorough," Brown wrote. "The committee is equally confident that such an investigation will not find any criminal wrongdoing."