Yet, there was Titcomb in November of that same year playing golf with his old prep school buddy, Barack Obama. In that the conviction had already been expunged from Titcomb’s record, the president could pretend that his pal had never actually been arrested. It must be nice.
The Democrats, in fact, have used the game of golf as an exculpatory ritual for some time, most intriguingly in September 1997 when then-President Bill Clinton played a very public game with one Michael Brown.
Michael was the son of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. A year or so earlier Ron and Michael had been facing the very real prospect of prison.
It is a long and complicated story, but basically Ron had maneuvered an Asian-American couple into co-ownership of an Oklahoma gas company called Dynamic Energy through a minority-preference scheme. Gene and Nora Lum, Democratic fundraisers from Hawaii, became instant millionaires in the process.
An independent counsel had no trouble discovering the quid pro quo. And here, for Ron Brown, was the tragic rub: The quid passed through his son, Michael.
One of the Lums’ first major acts as majority shareholders in Dynamic Energy was to hire Michael, then just 28. Michael, of course, had no more experience in this business than the Lums or his father, but his father had put the deal together. This was surely payback time.
As described in a lawsuit filed by another shareholder, Nora Lum had given Michael a 5 percent share in the company worth about $500,000 and a consulting fee of $7,500 per month.
On top of that, she awarded Michael a $60,000 corporate membership in an exclusive Robert Trent Jones golf club, just about 1,000 miles due east of Tulsa in suburban Virginia.
Before his first year on the job was out, Michael would be named the company’s acting president. When confronted by PBS “Frontline” producers, Nora Lum explained she had so favored Michael because she and Gene thought of him as the son they never had.
Desperate to keep Michael out of prison, Ron Brown confronted the president and asked him to intervene – or else he was prepared to talk about his role as bagman in the China fundraising trade.
Next thing you know, Ron was on his final trade mission, this one to Croatia to cut a deal between the neo-fascists who ran the country and the Enron Corporation. He never came back.
You would think that this story might interest the media, especially after Brown’s body was discovered with an apparent bullet hole in the top of his head, but you would be wrong.
Eight years later, I was the first person in the media to request the United States Air Force 22-volume report on the plane crash that killed Brown and 34 others.
Even after the Enron scandal broke, the media took absolutely no interest – despite my best efforts to get them involved.
Seven months before Bill Clinton’s re-election bid, the media were especially reluctant to investigate a story whose punch line might have proved fatal to the president’s chances.
In August 1997, the president safely re-elected, Michael Brown pled guilty to one misdemeanor charge of illegally giving $ 4,000 to Ted Kennedy’s 1994 Senate campaign.
When Brown pled guilty to this one misdemeanor, his slate was wiped clean. The Justice Department agreed it would “not prosecute the defendant for any other conduct by the defendant of which the Public Integrity Section … [is] presently aware.”
Michael Brown did not leave the courthouse kicking his heels, but one could excuse him if he had. Despite a ton of evidence, there would be no charges at all brought against him for passing illegal gratuities on to his father.
Any stigma attached to the plea faded quickly. A month and a day after he pled guilty, the press found Michael teeing up with a jaunty President Clinton for the second annual Ronald H. Brown Memorial Golf Tournament.
Within a few months, Washington insiders would be bruiting Michael’s name about as a likely candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. Even when he did run in 2006, I could not interest the media in his story.
Ron Brown, who had come to grips with his own failings in the months before his death, had died in vain. Michael was following in his footsteps. The father’s death had taught the son nothing.