It’s a familiar story in politics. Somebody breaks the law and gets away with it. For a while. Then somebody talks and it all starts to unravel. Case in point: Representative Mark Brown who has pleaded guilty to impeding a federal investigation of illegal campaign tactics five years ago in a congressional race. He was working for Jeff Smith, one of the candidates for the Third District House seat vacated by long-time Congressman Richard Gephardt. Smith, Brown, and Smith’s campaign Treasurer, Nick Adams, contracted with another man to generate negative campaign materials attacking state Representative Russ Carnahan. The material did not identify who was behind it or who had paid for it.
Smith finished second in the primary. Carnahan won the general election in November. Smith was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2006. Brown was elected to the House in 2008.
Smith, Brown, and Adams have pleaded guilty to charges that they obstructed a Federal Electrons Commission investigation of the complaint Carnahan filed when the anonymous fliers started circulating in the district. Smith and Adams also have pleaded guilty to trying to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation. All three have pleaded guilty.
Brown’s lawyer, Art Margulis, has seen this sort of thing before. "Once again,the coverup is far more serious than the initial offense," he says.
Brown has resigned from the House. He is preparing to surrender his law license. Smith has resigned from the Senate. Both will be sentenced November 10th.
Margulis hopes the judge shows some leniency to Brown, saying "the punishment is (already) severe without even getting to the sentencing phase."
Smith has some people on his side including the Senate Majority Leader, Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says Smithw as a "good member" who worked hard for his constituents. "I jsut hope that the judge will recognize the fact that he could probably do a whole lot more for his community out doing public servcice than he ever could costing us money housing him in a jail, " he says.
But he notes, "Little mistakes can do terrible harm to your future and maybe even put you in jail."