Carole Moseley-Braun's Scandals
--Living Large Off Campaign Funds
--Covering Up Sexual Harassment
--Miscellaneous Little Scandals
Carole Moseley-Braun's Skeleton Closet
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Carole Moseley Braun has quite a resume to qualify her as a president. She won a Senate seat in a major upset, capitalizing
on anger over the Anita Hill hearings, and proceeded to line her pockets with campaign funds, cover up sexual harassment charges against
her boyfriend/campaign manager (while paying him $15,000 a month out of campaign funds), and support an infamous Nigerian dictator even
as he was executing dissidents like renowned
playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa. After denying reports that the Democratic party offered to pay off her campaign debt if she would quit when her term expired in 1998,
she chewed through staff like like a puppy in a room of slippers, and lost her re-election to an unknown amidst widespread
charges of improprieties.
If that doesn't qualify you to lead the free world, what does?
"We were asking her fairly obvious questions. Things you'd expect a candidate for Senate to be familiar with. She was dumbfounded the entire time. She just sat there.... Then she'd fumble around with some half-baked answer. It was very awkward for all of us." -- Chicago Tribune political writer Thomas Hardy
"With this fund-raising being as successful as it is, as God is my witness, I will not go hungry again." -- Moseley-Braun
"For someone who has been in politics for 20-plus years to have so few if any supporters is remarkable. Her candidacy has more to do with psychology than politics. It's just inexplicable." -- political consultant Don Rose.
"She had a chance to make a difference and blew it." -- Paul Stilp, former Braun aide
It's surprisingly rare for candidates to actually use political office to enrich themselves. Most, like Bob Dole, are driven by political power and are more than happy to live a monastic life in order to achieve it. President Bush and Ralph Nader are two exceptions to that rule; Carole Moseley Braun is a third.
She was elected in 1992, the year of the woman candidate, and raised an amazing $7 million -- substantial chunks of which went to support her lifestyle and that of her boyfriend.
And like Nader, it's especially galling in her case because she's so quick to paint herself as "the voice of change", a leftist who will reform the corrupt system. The reality is, she was happy to milk the ultra-corrupt Chicago political machine for cash from the beginning of her political career.
In her first job, as Illinois state legislator, she became the official legislative spokesman of Chicago mayor Harold Washington. As part of that deal, Moseley-Braun was paid $100,000 (at the mayor's behest) for municipal bond work as a co-counsel for major law firms, even though she had no experience in the field.
Her next job was Cook County Recorder of Deeds, a patronage job reserved for loyal party lieutenants.
She created a code of ethics, then exempted herself. Here's what else she did, according to the New Republic
During the campaign, Moseley-Braun announced that "with this fundraising, as God is my witness, I will never go hungry again." (Her campaign raised $7 million dollars).
Much of that money went to Kgoise Matthews, her campaign manager and later fiance, whose previous experience was as a valet for Jesse Jackson. She paid him $15,000 per month and gave him unprecedented control over the campaign's finances, which were full of irregularities. He burned through the entire $7 million and more; they had to borrow money in the last days of the campaign, despite spending only $1 million on TV ads.
During the campaign, the couple stayed in 4 star accomodations and each got a credit card -- despite FEC regulations, they spent $26,400 on them that was never accounted for. In addition, there were a number of 5-figure payments for obscure reasons such as "advance for travel authorization" and "expense advance for authorization."
Shortly after the election, she announced her engagement to Matthews, moved into a $3,240-a-month luxury apartment in Chicago's Lake Point Towers, bought a new Jeep Cherokee with cash, then flew to South Africa on the Concorde with Matthews and her son. (Tickets on the now-defunct Concorde tickets ran about $4,000 per person, one way, at the time).
On January 15th after her election, she put her fiance on the payroll (at $120,000 per year) to "develop
strategies to reduce the campaign debt." By the time she laid him off the following October, that debt has
risen by $94,000 despite a new Senator's ability to raise funds easily.
Moseley-Braun won her Senate seat because of anger over the Anita Hill sexual harassment hearings. So it's particularly disheartening that she herself went to great lengths to cover up charges of sexual harassment against her boyfriend and campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews. As early as January 1992, long before her primary election, several staffers confronted Moseley Braun about incidents of sexual harassment by Matthews.
Peter McLennon, her then-political director, recalls that she "became quite livid. She said, `Oh, no, that couldn't be. It's just not possible.' She sort of shut us up." McLennon and two other top staffers quit the week before the primary, citing "personality differences" with Matthews.
Problems continued. Staff members told a reporter for the New Republic that the harassment "was pretty clear-cut. I was asked to resign by Kgosie after I refused to see him." Another staffer said that she was humiliated and verbally abused by Matthews after she refused a date. Steven Cobble -- Moseley Braun's finance director for the general election -- said "I knew of five or six instances, any one of which I would have thought was serious. Together, it was a major problem."
On October 15, just weeks before the election, Moseley Braun received an anonymous letter from a group of women in the campaign. It read, in part, "members of your senior staff are aware of these incidents; just ask them if you are in doubt,... investigate the allegations in this letter, talk to your senior staff--Heather [Booth], Ira [Cohen], Steve [Cobble], David [Eichenbaum]-- and ask them to be honest with you. We think they will be."
Instead, she successfully covered up the allegations until after the November election. Instead of talking to the staffers, she called an old friend, laywer and campaign contributor named Joyce Moran and asked her to write a report, which she did. Braun claims the report found no wrongdoing, but to this day she refuses to release it, citing "confidentiality." Several staff members say they told Moran details of harassment.
After she was elected, the issue blew up and Moseley Braun held a press conference on December 31st, where she claimed that she had talked to the four staff members involved and they had said the charges were ridiculous. Two of those four staffers flatly contradict her, saying Braun never spoke to them and they had told Moran of problems.
Steve Cobble says he went further and confronted Moseley Braun on the issue 10 days before the election. Staffer David Eichenbaum -- another of the four staffers -- says he told Moran "that there was a problem.... When [Kgosie's] advances were spurned, his demeanor toward people would change completely. He would became nasty toward them. These women had a legitimate complaint."
Of the report, Eichenbaum said "Her intention was to clear her boyfriend, not to get to the truth." Unless several of her staffers -- including 5 women who talked to the New Republic on condition of anonymity -- are mistaken, then Moseley Braun is shamelessly lying to cover this scandal up.
In 1990, Moseley Braun's mother was living in a nursing home, completely supported by Medicaid because she had no assets. Then her mom inherited $28,750 dollars. By law, she needed to report that to the state within 5 days so they could reclaim some of it to pay for the nursing home.
Instead, she turned it over to Moseley Braun, who kept some and gave the rest to her brother and sister. She even admits that she drew up a legal agreement spelling out the distribution of money, dated June 27, 1990, which her mom signed.
When the story broke, Moseley Braun basically blamed her mom, conceding that she should have "taken greater control of the reporting requirements." She was forced to pay back the $15,239 that she received to the state, but was not prosecuted in part because the Illinois state Attorney General Roland Burris, a Democrat who campaigned with her, didn't press the case.
Then a reporter found an unsigned letter from Moseley Braun to her mother with explosive wording. "In an effort to help you "launder" the timber proceeds and not run afoul of the state regulations, I agreed to handle your $28,750. The money was deposited in a money-market account and touched only at your direction. "
The reporter had, at the time, only a fragment of the letter, and it was unsigned, so he had a television reporter friend ask her about the letter during a videotaped interview. Here is the transcript:
KUR [shows letter]: Do you have anything to say about that?
David Eichenbaum, who attended the taping, remembers that "Kgosie started bouncing off the walls, grabbing Carol, grabbing the letter. He took a look at it, said, `We're getting out of here' and basically just whisked her out."
According to Gerald Austin, who at the time was the campaign's media adviser, they held an emergency meeting back at campaign headquarters, and he asked Moseley Braun if she had written the letter. She said "I used to write lots of letters to my mother for catharsis. Some I sent, some I tore up." According to Austin, "She said she didn't remember if she had sent this one or torn it up. That to me was an admission she'd done the letter. People were shocked. We said, `(a) she's going to lose the election, (b) she's going to be disbarred and (c) she's going to be indicted.'"
Now the reporter had a dilemna. The actual evidence was pretty shaky -- part of an unsigned letter -- but Moseley Braun's response made it clear it was solid. Then Austin applied the pressure. He called the reporter, whom he had known for 20 years, and basically begged him not to run the story, because it would destroy Moseley Braun, and he would personally have prevented the first African American woman Senator from being elected. According to Austin, the reporter was a "good liberal" and didn't run the story.
Despite her claims of being a reformer, Moseley Braun was quick to scratch the back of her contributors in indefensible ways. In 1994, a technical error in the GATT agreement extended Glaxo's patent on Zantac, a mistake worth $2 billion to the company. When Congress moved to correct the error, Moseley Braun was the only Democrat on the Finance committee to vote AGAINST fixing the [completely unintended] mistake. Why? Well, Glaxo had paid her $15,000 for a speech to their executives and had flown Moseley Braun around on their corporate jet for free. [They also gave $487,500 to the Republican National Committee, and the measure to correct the error failed by a single vote -- Moseley Braun's.]
Moseley Braun has some smaller stuff, too. After Clinton appointed her as ambassador to New Zealand, the top ranking career diplomat there was reassigned to Washington after accusing her of unethical practices in hiring, procurement and gifts. A State Dept. investigation cleared her of the charges. In 1996, right before the Democratic Convention, she travelled to Nigeria with Kgosie Matthews, who was not only her fiancee but also a paid lobbyist for the Nigerian government. In Lagos, she met with infamous Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, who had recently executed famed playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa. Moseley Braun said the dictator was misunderstood and treated unfairly by the press; her unauthorized visit was criticized by the State Department and human rights groups. In justifying her actions, her story has changed. She first said it was a personal visit, then admitted she had made a mistake. Probes by the IRS and Federal Election Commission (presumably for her receiving income and campaign donations in the form of travel and expense money) were dropped. The FEC spokesman said "There's no statement here: no exoneration, no Good Housekeeping seal of approval, just no action. The commission dismissed it for a lack of manpower, a lack of time." After the probes were ended, she reverted to her initial story, saying it was a personal visit.
"Crusading for a second chance: The former U.S. senator strives to revitalize her tarnished political image. But her campaign has little money and she left behind a trail of disillusioned supporters.", By Dan Mihalopoulos, Chicago Tribune, October 23, 2003
"The Spy 100 lineup", by Lance Gould and David Andrews, Spy Magazine, Dec96 p32
"A star is born", (cover story) by Ruth Shalit, New Republic; 11/15/93, Vol. 209 Issue 20, p18
"A senator's uneasy debut", by Eloise Salholz and Todd Barrett, Newsweek; 1/18/93, Vol. 121 Issue 3, p26
"The dirty Hill" (cover story) , by David Grann and Erika Niedowski, New Republic; 04/07/97, Vol. 216 Issue 14, p21
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