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How 'minority capitalism' undid Ron Brown

Posted By Jack Cashill On 04/28/2004 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Editor’s note: This column is the second segment of a new 11-part exclusive WorldNetDaily series excerpted from Jack Cashill’s shocking new book, “Ron Brown’s Body.” “At the end of day,” says Cashill who began the project a skeptic, “it is not irresponsible to talk about murder.” Here, Cashill shows how a Nixon-inspired vote-getting scheme corrupted Brown, a former Army captain and a racial bridge-builder of great potential.

“Miserable creature!”

This is how retired innkeeper Bunny Engler of Harlingen, Texas, describes Ron Brown – and she has, alas, good reason to describe him thus.

In retrospect, the pattern seems self-evident: Ron Brown was quietly destroying himself. Every major step he took only seemed to ease him closer if not toward death itself, then at least toward moral self-destruction – the kind that would transform one of God’s more gifted children into a “miserable creature.”

Even as Brown pursued the chair of the Democratic National Committee, he would yield to the siren song of “minority capitalism.” The black Jag, the gold Rolex, the monogrammed shirts, the Hermes ties, the French cuffs, the Haitian mistress – they did not come cheap. But the bounty available to a well-connected black man in late-century D.C. came easily – so easily, in fact, and was so easily rationalized, one can understand why Brown had come to feel it his due.

A Nixonian concoction, “minority capitalism” developed excellence – or even basic entrepreneurial skills – only by chance. Its newly minted entrepreneurs exchanged their race preferences and connections for the rights to distribute other peoples’ products and services. Brown himself came to manage a pointlessly random portfolio of stuff – bonds, burlap bags, insurance, oil contracts, natural gas, pay phones, pension services, radio shows, sludge treatment – without knowing much about any of it. Like so many others of this spurious class, he added cost but not value and produced nothing.

Worse, the whole phenomenon had no real justification, not even the redressing of historic wrongs. In a dispassionate text on the minority-rights revolution published by Harvard Press, John Skrentny argues pointedly that minority capitalist programs “were developed for blacks as a way to mitigate the urban riots of the 1960s and to win their votes.” There never was any evidence “government was responding to complaints of discrimination.”

In December 1988, with the DNC race heating up, Brown involved himself in an all-too-classic bit of preferential enterprise. He and some colleagues bought a Washington radio station. This purchase cost Brown not much more than his signature and a little time. Yes, it was that easy and that legal. The laws that made this possible were a testament to the powers of redemptive white liberalism. The playing field had indeed been leveled. In the past, only powerful insiders like Lyndon Johnson could benefit from FCC-rigged sweetheart deals. Now, the Federal Communications Commission was prepared to corrupt just about any minority with juice.

About this time, Brown and his partners also launched a company called Kellee Communications that provided a perfectly gratuitous layer of involvement in the pay-telephone service at several major airports, including Dulles and National. The Kellee partners knew nothing about pay telephones. They did not have to. MCI Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp. provided the technical wherewithal and Kellee provided the connections – a well-wired job from end to end.

Brown first made contact with the Ohio-based Public Employees Benefit Services Corporation, or PEBSCO, in 1984 – an appropriate year, given the Orwellian spin used to justify the relationship. Several of the cities in which PEBSCO wanted to do business now required that vendors form partnerships with minority firms. Washington was one of those cities. Although by all accounts Brown had little business acumen and less pension experience, he formed a company called Capital-PEBSCO, which promptly secured half the city’s retirement-fund business. In a bit of sophistry so breathtakingly cynical it deserves to be read in full, PEBSCO attorney Mark Koogler fixes the scam as a kind of natural stage in the evolution of the civil-rights movement:

There was a kind of moral symmetry in Brown’s being able to help enrich himself as a black front man for a white company. Arguably, being able to capitalize on his race in getting municipal contracts was no more than compensation for the racism that kept him from getting private clients. If affirmative action simply made one already well-to-do black man that much richer, then so be it. He was probably comfortable with the thought that he, after all, had done his part for civil rights and was still supporting the cause. Others would now have to put themselves on the line to lift the downtrodden out of poverty.

The deal that finally shed light on Brown’s shadow world involved a Louisiana company in which he was involved called Chemfix Technologies Inc., which had better contacts than credentials. What caught the media’s attention was the revelation, even though unjustified, that the DNC chose New York City as the site of its 1992 convention just two months after New York City settled on Chemfix. Brown, reported Newsday, was the “major force” in that decision.

Nonetheless, 1992 was a good year for Brown. In his financial disclosure report, he reported an income for 1992 in excess of three-quarters of a million dollars, only $89,000 of which came from his job at the DNC.

Bunny Engler never dreamed she would be expected to contribute to Brown’s estate. In the fall of 1992, she and her husband Franklyn owned a restaurant called the Oriskany Inn near Davis, W.Va., that Brown often visited. Apparently Brown and a woman friend had visited the inn one night in the late fall of 1992 just before Brown’s appointment as secretary of Commerce. They were the last ones to leave. As they were walking past the unmanned reception area, Brown reached over to the wall and grabbed a $3,000 Austin Deuel watercolor right off it. When they reached the parking lot, and the woman realized what he had done, she was shocked and asked him why he had taken it.

Said Brown, matter-of-factly: “I’m entitled to it.”


Tomorrow: Part 3 — In Asia, Brown learned, they played the game for keeps


Order your copy of “Ron Brown’s Body” today.


Related columns:

Part 1: Did Ron Brown die for Enron’s sins?


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