DeKalb Sheriff Brown’s campaign for Congress assailed by rights activist Joe Beasley over campaign finances

By David Pendered

DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown’s campaign for the congressional seat held by Rep. Hank Johnson is under attack by veteran human rights activist Joe Beasley.

DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown's website promotes his campaign for Congress. Credit: tombrownforcongress.com/

DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown’s website promotes his campaign for Congress. Credit: tombrownforcongress.com/

Beasley said he filed a complaint against Brown’s campaign finance practices with the Federal Election Commission. Beasley said he holds a dim view of Brown because of the sheriff’s demeanor following the fatal shootings in 2006 at the Fulton County Courthouse, and Brown’s handling of evictions during the foreclosure crisis of the Great Recession.

Brown’s campaign issued a statement Sunday evening in answer to a request for a response to the complaint. The response says Beasley is making the attack on behalf of the Johnson campaign. The response characterized the filing of a “technical challenge” as “an old tactic often used by political campaigns in trouble.”

Beasley said his motive is not to help Johnson, but to stop Brown from reaching higher office.

“I’ve watched Tom Brown over the years and I don’t think he would be a good congressman. I don’t think he’s been a good sheriff,” Beasley said.

Beasley said he signed a six-page complaint against Brown’s campaign and sent it to the FEC on April 5. The package included 44 pages of materials intended to support the complaint.

Joe Beasley

Joe Beasley

The complaint begins:

  • “Former DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown, a candidate for Georgia’s 4th District, U.S House of Representatives, has repeatedly demonstrated a blatant disregard for the ‘rules of the road.’ He has arrogantly or ignorantly and with reckless indifference embarked on a federal campaign that plays outside the rules. He has ignored many basic tenants of campaign fair play and I am bringing this formal complaint to the FEC to seek your help in bringing him into compliance as quickly as possible.”

The response from the Brown campaign said it has yet to receive notice the complaint was filed. After observing that “it is obvious” the complaint was filed on behalf of the Johnson campaign, the response states:

  • “The filing of a technical complaint is an old tactic often used by political campaigns in trouble.  If they cannot defend an incumbent’s record or challenge an opponent on the issues, they raise a technical challenge. It’s what magicians do when they furiously wave their right hand so you won’t see what the left hand is doing.
  • “Nevertheless, the Brown campaign will take the complaint seriously and will have its lawyers and staff start researching the issues raised.  And if any filing mistakes are found, those will be acknowledged and corrected immediately.
  • “One thing should be clear. The Tom Brown campaign will not be distracted or slowed down for one minute by this worn-out tactic.”
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson

Beasley’s complaint lists seven “specific concerns”:

  1. “Untimely filing of FEC statement of candidacy and statement of organization;
  2. “Payments to political polling firm HEG in January and February 2013 from Thomas Brown for Sheriff account;
  3. “Use of federally prohibited funds in furtherance of Tom Brown’s campaign for Congress;
  4. “More evidence of untimely filing due to contributions exceeding $5,000 on or before Aug. 7, 2013;
  5. “Evidence to support that FEC filing should have occurred on or before July 17, 2013;
  6. “Billboard expenditure not reported and not attributed to any independent committee;
  7. “Ongoing and continuous violations of the disclaimer rule on campaign printed material.”

To read each page of the Beasley complaint, click on these links: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6.

To read the full statement from the Brown campaign, click here.

Beasley said he met Brown after the courthouse shootings and determined that Brown was focused mainly on positioning himself for higher office. Beasley said the two were serving on the blue ribbon task force convened after the shootings for the purpose of improving courthouse security.

May 20 is the date of the primary election. July 22 is the date of the runoff election, as needed. Credit: sos.ga.gov, uselections.com, David Pendered

May 20 is the date of the primary election. July 22 is the date of the runoff election, as needed. Credit: sos.ga.gov, uselections.com, David Pendered

In that case, Brian Nichols was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 54 counts including the fatal shooting of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Brandau, sheriff’s Deputy Hoyt Teasley, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent David Wilhem.

“It was clear to me that Tom Brown’s main interest was higher office,” Beasley said.

Beasley said the next interaction occurred during the foreclosure crisis. Beasley was working with the Occupy Atlanta movement and participating in the efforts to impede evictions.

In one instance that involved an 82-year-old woman who was to be evicted, Beasley said he and Brown and an Occupy leader met at the DeKalb County Jail. The purpose of the meeting was to plan for the way deputies would handle the protesters. This sort of advance negotiation is not uncommon in planned cases of civil disturbances.

“Tom Brown flipped the script, he abused his authority, and it didn’t go the way it should have gone,” Beasley said. “I was treated as we’d discussed. But [others] were not.”

This controversy in the 4th District is the strongest yet to emerge in a short primary campaign headed to the May 20 election.

Three of the six congressional districts that serve most of metro Atlanta have opposition in the primary. Representatives Hank Johnson and David Scott are defending their seats against a single challenger in the primary.

The open District 11 seat, the post Rep. Phil Gingrey is leaving to run for the Senate, is a six-way battle among GOP candidates whose debate Saturday in Cobb County was chronicled minute-by-minute by peachpundit.com.

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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