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Alvin Brown’s Curious Contributions

Jacksonville's mayor-elect Alvin Brown

“What’s past is prologue,” wrote William Shakespeare.

As Mayor-elect Alvin Brown assembles his transition team, we thought it would be instructive to learn more about the man who will lead the city of Jacksonville over the course of the next four years.

Everybody knows part of Brown’s personal story, encapsulated in his catchy campaign slogan — “From Winn-Dixie to the White House” — but even his most ardent supporters would be hard-pressed to tell you much else about the person entrusted with guiding the River City in what will almost certainly be some rocky periods ahead, particularly given Jacksonville’s continuing recession-ravaged economy and the city’s looming fiscal crisis.

Two weeks after his stunning victory on May 17, the 47-year-old Brown remains something of a mystery to most citizens of Jacksonville.

Part of that is due to his low-key nature, his natural aversion to appearing too boastful about his own accomplishments — he rarely mentioned his role as executive director of the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund’s Interfaith Fund during the campaign, for example — and part is undoubtedly due to an unwillingness to subject himself to any media scrutiny.

That appeared to be the case early in the mayoral campaign when he failed to return a phone call requesting an interview from the Jacksonville Observer — his wife clearly kept the candidate at an arm’s distance — or when he displayed a similar reluctance to return phone calls from the Times-Union and other media outlets.

If Jacksonville’s newly-elected mayor has developed a reputation for secrecy — as some of his critics charge — much of it is a result of his own actions and unwillingness to be more forthcoming.

Perhaps he became too accustomed to working in a huge federal bureaucracy, far from the media glare, to ever really warm up to reporters.

Meet Your New Mayor

While the voters of Duval County didn’t have an opportunity to learn a whole lot about Brown’s past during the recent campaign, his personal campaign contributions can tell us a lot about his political instincts, for better or worse.

The former senior member of the Clinton Administration, it turns out, has been extremely generous in giving to candidates for federal office, donating nearly $50,000 to candidates — almost all of them Democrats, including quite a few members of the Black Caucus — during the past sixteen years, dating back to his ill-fated primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown in 1994. That’s pretty impressive.

A couple of those contributions speak volumes, however, about Brown’s judgment — or lack thereof — and his ability to read people.

Maybe he’s just a trusting soul.

"Dollar Bill" Jefferson

In 1995, for example, Brown contributed to the now-disgraced William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana congressman who was later convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison on bribery and money laundering charges while serving in Congress.

Congressman William Jefferson's freezer held more than pie crusts.

It’s unclear what Brown’s relationship with Jefferson — who stuffed $90,000 in marked money in the freezer of his Virginia home and later refused to cooperate with federal investigators — was at the time.

Brown, with no seeming connections to politics in “The Big Easy,” nevertheless contributed $500 to Jefferson’s re-election campaign during the 1995-96 election cycle, despite the fact that “Dollar Bill” — a nickname derisively hung on him by late New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial — faced no opposition.

Meek and McKinney

Jacksonville’s next mayor also contributed a similar amount that year to Cynthia McKinney, the combative and controversial six-term Atlanta congresswoman who made headlines in September 2008 when — as the Green Party’s candidate for President — she accused the Department of Defense of systematically disposing of 5,000 bodies, each with a single bullet wound to the head, in the Louisiana swamps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Brown’s one-time ally — somebody he was at least willing to part with money for — told the press that most of the victims were prisoners.

In addition to giving generously to Corrine Brown — the same woman who once called him a “carpetbagger” — Jacksonville’s newly-minted mayor also opened his wallet for U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Fl.) in 1996. He gave her $500, too.

An Escalade, provided to Carrie Meek by Dennis Stackhouse, is parked at his Opa-Locka building, where her foundation had a rent-free office. (Chuck Fadely/Miami Herald)

Meek, the first African-American elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction, was another gem.

As recently as last year, the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) cited the former congresswoman for accepting $90,000 in “consulting fees” and the free use of a Cadillac Escalade from a developer for whom her son — who, incidentally, conveniently inherited her congressional seat eight years earlier — had earmarked some $1,072,750 in taxpayer funds for a development project. The developer also reportedly gave the former congresswoman the free use of a 2,600-square foot office for her foundation.

CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan, a no-nonsense former assistant U.S. Attorney, also brought up the questionable circumstances surrounding Meek’s role in her son’s initial election to Congress in 2002, when the 76-year-old congresswoman waited until shortly before the filing deadline to announce her retirement, putting other Democrats in the district at a distinct disadvantage while “essentially bequeathing” the seat to her son.

She was apparently Alvin Brown’s kind of candidate, too.

The Future First Lady and "Cash and Carry Larry"

Santhea Hicks, the future mayor’s wife, has also made a number of contributions, including a $1,000 donation to New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook, a longtime Bronx politician, who was indicted last year on a laundry list of corruption charges, including 13-counts of money laundering, fraud and extortion.

Hicks, who was then working at the U.S. Department of Transportation, made the contribution eleven years ago when Seabrook — long known as “Cash and Carry Larry” — was waging a particularly nasty campaign for Congress against U.S. Representative Eliot L. Engel.

Like her husband, Hicks — who listed her occupation as the executive director of the Willie Gary Football Classic — also made the maximum individual contributions of $2,300 to the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008.

A Tight Bond

These are just some of the candidates that Alvin Brown and his wife have lavished with campaign contributions over the past sixteen years.

Brown’s most curious contribution, however, occurred in 2004 when he wrote out a check for $2,000 to Republican Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri. Bond appears to be the only Republican that Brown ever gave money to. The former Clinton aide, who had worked closely with the Missouri lawmaker on housing issues while he was at HUD, helped Bond raise money that year, including hosting a low-key fundraising event for him at the River Club here in Jacksonville.

That’s somewhat surprising since the four-term legislator had one of the lowest civil rights scores in the Senate, receiving a dismal 11 percent rating on affirmative action from the NAACP in 2005-2006 — a time-honored organization, incidentally, that our mayor-elect unsuccessfully sought to head a few years later.  As one of three finalists, Brown lost out to current President Benjamin Todd Jealous.

26 Responses »

  1. You only attack him for giving to BLACK politicians? Where is the balance??

    How many WHITE politicians did Mike Hogan give to????

    • Balance? Ask the times-union
      Hogan isn't in the money laundering business.

    • Tell us why you voted for him? I bet it was the same reason you voted for Obama huh? The color of his skin because it certianly couldn't have been on his merits. So who is really the racist here??

  2. Who cares who Alvin Brown gave money to 15 years ago? It's not as if contributing campaign money is a crime.... in most instances :)

  3. Brown has been involved in politics for nearly 20 years, including serving President Clinton. I suspect many politicians have a few contributions they regret after two decades in the business.

    When operating in the politics, donating to various campaigns at the request of party officials or organizers is often par for the course.

    On a more local level, consider when someone brings candy or some other item their kid is hawking for school. You buy their kid's stuff so they will buy your kids stuff.

    Similar horse trading, rather right or wrong, happens with political contributions.

    Did brown contribute to anyone that did something great while in office? You've tallied up about 10% of his total contributions. If the other 90% are neutral or better, than I suspect he's way above average for most politicos.

  4. Lighten up, Francis. Is it an attack if it is all true? A wise man once said...the truth hurts.

  5. I feel sorry for Jacksonville and glad I got the hell out of there. This guy is a Obama clone.

  6. Darcy G. Richardson is writing this now? How stupid I mean I don't like the issues the new Mayor is touting like spending money downtown but what is this article going to accomplish. The election is over someone needs to kick the editor of this "Observer" in the Ass.

  7. We really did elect another empty suit to elective office. I can't wait to find out who his George Soros is.

    • Wow. Not even in office yet and he's already a horrible mayor, eh? Looks like you've developed some preconceived notions, Tim.

  8. So Jacksonville will go the way of the other Democrat controlled cities with a black mayor, down the tubes. Why do some stupid people vote on the basis of color instead of what is good for America or the community? Back or red or green or brown, Alvin is a Democrat and NO Democrat has been a successful mayor. And I though I had escaped this political nonsense.

  9. Where was this information BEFORE the election? Huh? We rtead all about Mike Hogan supporting a child molester with his testimony, but we never heard about Alvin Brown's contributions over the years to corrupt politicians.

    • A good question to direct to the Florida Times-Union and the Mike Hogan campaign. This is all public record information. Hogan's campaign failed to use it and the Times-Union totally ignored it.

  10. Ricardo you are so correct. States and cities under a democrat leaders are going broke1

  11. Looks like we can expect a whole new gang of rascals. It seems we've moved from The Ortega Aristocracy Party to The Gateway Party, and now to The Welfare Party.

    Rascals sure can get their sticky fingers into the public pocketbook! Problem is, of course, that the public pocketbook is about empty.

  12. It's odd that Santhea Hicks is reported here to have been the Executive Director of the Willie Gary Football Classic, when her husband, Mayor-elect Alvin Brown has reported that he held that position, himself. Perhaps someone could get the Browns to provide some documentation as to which, if either, of them held this position.

    Also, why did Alvin Brown state on his filed report with the Federal Election Commission that he is an attorney when research found no documentation that he is an attorney in the State of Florida---and a nationwide search has not been able to document that he is an attorney in any of the fifty states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands? Neither has Alvin Brown provided the name of the law school from which he was graduated. So, perhaps someone could get documentation from Alvin Brown to prove that he is an attorney, as well as a copy of his diploma and certified transcripts from the law school.

    Alvin Brown also claimed he was graduated from Harvard Business School. However,
    a research inquiry showed no record at all of Alvin Brown's having attended Harvard. Surely, Mr. Brown would want to clear up this discrepancy and provide the documentation of his graduation and certified transcripts from Harvard.

    Maybe now that he will be Mayor of Jacksonville and subject to the Sunshine Laws, perhaps someone can obtain from Alvin Brown all of his vitae, multiple corporations owned and dissolved, multiple corporations on whose Boards of Directors he has served, real estate transactions, and all work history---both in the public and private sectors.

    There are also many citizens and voters of Duval county, like myself, who would like to know why Alvin Brown, with all his claimed qualifications and claimed fitness to serve would have two international entities---the Service Employees International Union and Organizing for America, which is a derivative of Obama for America whose name was changed followingr Obama's election in 2008---here in Jacksonville providing the paid boots on the ground workers to register voters and get out the vote for him in our county election?.

    Both the SEIU and Organizing for America are reported to be connected with the surviving and re-aligned ACORN, which also is an international organizing and get out the vote entity comprised originally of about 370 organizations, prior to their bankruptcy following indictments in 14 states for vote fraud. Research shows that both the SEIU and Obama have had a relationship with ACORN in Chicago and sometimes worked out of the same offices.

    Perhaps Mayor Elect Brown would explain to all of us why the progressive-socialist international Canadian-based labor union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and progressive-socialist Organizing for America, with ties to international ACORN, now operating under a number of new names, be so interested in installing him as Jacksonville's Mayor.

    And, is Mayor-Elect Brown reporting those entities' vast contributions of time, money, meals, busses, housing/salaries and cell phones for workers---for the purpose of getting voters registered and to the polls to vote for him, as "In Kind" donations? Wouldn't those massive assets to Brown's race have to be reported to the State Election Commission and the FEC? Out of all the run-off races, only the Hogan-Brown race ended in a near tie.

    The citizens of Duval County are entitled to answers to these and many other questions.

  13. It’s odd that Santhea Hicks is reported here to have been the Executive Director of the Willie Gary Football Classic, when her husband, Mayor-elect Alvin Brown has reported that he held that position, himself. Perhaps someone could get the Browns to provide some documentation as to which, if either, of them held this position.

    Also, why did Alvin Brown state on his filed report with the Federal Election Commission that he is an attorney when research found no documentation that he is an attorney in the State of Florida—and a nationwide search has not been able to document that he is an attorney in any of the fifty states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands? Neither has Alvin Brown provided the name of the law school from which he was graduated. So, perhaps someone could get documentation from Alvin Brown to prove that he is an attorney, as well as a copy of his diploma and certified transcripts from the law school.

    Alvin Brown also claimed he was graduated from Harvard Business School. However,
    a research inquiry showed no record at all of Alvin Brown’s having attended Harvard. Surely, Mr. Brown would want to clear up this discrepancy and provide the documentation of his graduation and certified transcripts from Harvard.

    Maybe now that he will be Mayor of Jacksonville and subject to the Sunshine Laws, perhaps someone can obtain from Alvin Brown all of his vitae, multiple corporations owned and dissolved, multiple corporations on whose Boards of Directors he has served, real estate transactions, and all work history—both in the public and private sectors.

    There are also many citizens and voters of Duval county who would like to know why Alvin Brown would have the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Organizing for America (originally Obama for America) here in Jacksonville providing paid boots on the ground workers to register voters and get out the vote for him in our county election?

    Both the SEIU and Organizing for America are reported to have ties to ACORN, which is an international organizing and get out the vote entity comprised originally of about 370 organizations, prior to their bankruptcy following indictments in 14 states for vote fraud. Research shows that both the SEIU and Obama have had a relationship with ACORN in Chicago and sometimes worked out of the same offices.

    Perhaps Mayor Elect Brown would explain to all of us why Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is an international Canadian-based labor union, and Organizing for America would go to so much expense to assure his election as Mayor of Jacksonville. Also, if he has reported their vast contributions of time, money, meals, busses, housing/salaries and cell phones for workers—for the purpose of getting voters registered and to the polls to vote for him, as “In Kind” donations?

  14. I find it strange that Santhea Hicks is reported here to have been the Executive Director of the Willie Gary Football Classic, when her husband, Mayor-elect Alvin Brown has reported that he held that position, himself. Perhaps someone could get the Browns to provide some documentation as to which, if either, of them held this position.

    Also, why did Alvin Brown state on his filed report with the Federal Election Commission that he is an attorney when research found no documentation that he is an attorney in the State of Florida—and a nationwide search has not been able to document that he is an attorney in any of the fifty states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands? Neither has Alvin Brown provided the name of the law school from which he was graduated. So, perhaps someone could get documentation from Alvin Brown to prove that he is an attorney, as well as a copy of his diploma and certified transcripts from the law school.

    Alvin Brown also claimed he was graduated from Harvard Business School. However,
    a research inquiry showed no record at all of Alvin Brown’s having attended Harvard. Surely, Mr. Brown would want to clear up this discrepancy and provide the documentation of his graduation and certified transcripts from Harvard.

    Maybe now that he will be Mayor of Jacksonville and subject to the Sunshine Laws, perhaps someone can obtain from Alvin Brown all of his vitae, multiple corporations owned and dissolved, multiple corporations on whose Boards of Directors he has served, real estate transactions, and all work history—both in the public and private sectors.

    There are also many citizens and voters of Duval county who would like to know why Alvin Brown would have the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Organizing for America (originally Obama for America) here in Jacksonville providing paid boots on the ground workers to register voters and get out the vote for him in our county election?

    Both the SEIU and Organizing for America are reported to have ties to ACORN, which is an international organizing and get out the vote entity comprised originally of about 370 organizations, prior to their bankruptcy following indictments in 14 states for vote fraud. Research shows that both the SEIU and Obama have had a relationship with ACORN in Chicago and sometimes worked out of the same offices.

    Perhaps Mayor Elect Brown would explain to all of us why Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is an international Canadian-based labor union, and Organizing for America would go to so much expense to assure his election as Mayor of Jacksonville. Also, if he has reported their vast contributions of time, money, meals, busses, housing/salaries and cell phones for workers—for the purpose of getting voters registered and to the polls to vote for him, as “In Kind” donations?

  15. It is disturbing to find that my comments are being censored out by this website. There is nothing in them that cannot be documented, so you are discriminating against me, when you did not discriminate against others commenting here. My comments were changed from the first version and you had no time to even read what I posted to see if it was appropriate. This is pure political censorship. I have copied and pasted your denial of my comments with the false remark that I had alread said that, even when you had not allowed it to show on your website. I believe you have violated my First Amendment rights of free speech.

    • Umm... what the heck are you talking about? I can't violate your First Amendment rights of free speech because it doesn't include the right for you to comment on someone else's blog. Furthermore, you tripped the spam filter when you posted nearly the same thing over and over again.

  16. I find it strange that Santhea Hicks is reported here to have been the Executive Director of the Willie Gary Football Classic, when her husband, Mayor-elect Alvin Brown has reported that he held that position, himself. Perhaps someone could get the Browns to provide some documentation as to which, if either, of them held this position.

    Also, why did Alvin Brown state on his filed report with the Federal Election Commission that he is an attorney when research found no documentation that he is an attorney in the State of Florida—and a nationwide search has not been able to document that he is an attorney in any of the fifty states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands? Neither has Alvin Brown provided the name of the law school from which he was graduated. So, perhaps someone could get documentation from Alvin Brown to prove that he is an attorney, as well as a copy of his diploma and certified transcripts from the law school.

    Alvin Brown also claimed he was graduated from Harvard Business School. However,
    a research inquiry showed no record at all of Alvin Brown’s having attended Harvard. Surely, Mr. Brown would want to clear up this discrepancy and provide the documentation of his graduation and certified transcripts from Harvard.

    Maybe now that he will be Mayor of Jacksonville and subject to the Sunshine Laws, perhaps someone can obtain from Alvin Brown all of his vitae, multiple corporations owned and dissolved, multiple corporations on whose Boards of Directors he has served, real estate transactions, and all work history—both in the public and private sectors.

    There are also many citizens and voters of Duval county who would like to know why Alvin Brown would have the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Organizing for America (originally Obama for America) here in Jacksonville providing paid boots on the ground workers to register voters and get out the vote for him in our county election?

    Both the SEIU and Organizing for America are reported to have ties to ACORN, which is an international organizing and get out the vote entity comprised originally of about 370 organizations, prior to their bankruptcy following indictments in 14 states for vote fraud. Research shows that both the SEIU and Obama have had a relationship with ACORN in Chicago and sometimes worked out of the same offices.

    Perhaps Mayor Elect Brown would explain to all of us why Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is an international Canadian-based labor union, and Organizing for America would go to so much expense to assure his election as Mayor of Jacksonville. Also, if he has reported their vast contributions of time, money, meals, busses, housing/salaries and cell phones for workers—for the purpose of getting voters registered and to the polls to vote for him, as “In Kind” donations?

  17. why is it a black thing? people act so surprised that black americans support each other, demonize it even, yet bring it up first thing when a black american succeeds. and donating to crooked politicians? isn't being crooked a prerequisite for being a politician?as for the 'welfare state' everyone seems so in arms about, i'm sure that many of you claim to be christians. why are you so opposed to people trying to inject real christian values into our government? is it because you are afraid that if everyone has equal access to such luxuries as health care you may have to pick your own cotton and tomatos? As for our new mayors 'contributions' what is $500?! $500 is less to a campaign than a quarter in a beggars cup is to the beggar! i DO hope to see some changes, whether they be labeled socialist or not: our school system needs an immediate upgrade! we will never have big businesses come to jax-or FL-if we remain rated in the bottom half of the country. jeb bush knew that, even tried to court some of the businesses his dear brother, george w., was trying to run out of our country! please, raise the sales tax and send the money to our schools so that EVERYONE is contributing! i would like to see the social services department overhauled-easier to get, and easier to get off! people don't seem to understand that the system is DESIGNED to keep you ON the system! provide support for a predetermined amount of time and coach the people receiving the help to get them to be successful members of society! and lastly, stop "spreading" jax and put money into the areas that are already developed-including downtown-before we end up known as 'the city with the most ghettos'! Wakeup America! its 2011: all races are supposed to be equal, women can vote and wear pants now, and the system everyone seems to want NOT to change DOESN'T WORK!

  18. For those who are reading my comments made regarding the above-published article, my comment about my First Amendment rights was made following the SECOND rejection of my first comment. It was only then that my revised and shortened version of my comment was posted, for they were all posted AFTER my complaint, not before it. That's why there are four comments instead of one comment made by me, as shown above, prior to this one..

    • Pick the one you want to appear and I'll delete the rest. No one is censoring you, we use a blogging software called WordPress that holds certain comments for moderation...

  19. This is the FIRST 'negative' article I have read about Brown. Would have been nice to read this about 2 months ago! Alot of questions in here that he should be forced to answer.

  20. So the only argument you can make against Alvin Brown is that he had "suspicious" contributions to politicians more than a decade ago? This is an incredibly lame attempt to lure gullible readers into linking Alvin Brown's name to these ill-fated politicians. I'm not sure what the point of the article is, really. None of these contributions seem "curious". I would expect someone involved in politics like Mr. Brown to contribute to other politicians' campaigns. Mr. Brown has no control over what they do 5-14 years after he contributes to them. Is he supposed to know exactly what mistakes they'll make before he contributes? Labeling these contributions "curious" is yellow journalism, trying to make the reader question his credibility unnecessarily. If you want to be a grown-up news media source, you should cut this type of journalism out and at least attempt to present yourself as unbiased. And if you are going to be biased, which I fully expect you to be, at least have intelligent examples. Folio Weekly, for instance, is very very biased, however at least they give smart examples. These examples are such a stretch. Phew, there's my rant. Hopefully it didn't offend anyone.