Congresswoman forced to vacate key veterans affairs post amid scandal
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2015 file photo, Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. talks with the press in Tallahassee, Fla. Brown has been indicted after a federal investigation into a fraudulent charity with ties to the congresswoman. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser, File)
The top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee stepped down from that post on Friday, just a day after being indicted in an alleged charity fraud fraud scheme.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said in a statement late Friday that the move is was temporary while she works to "vigorously defend myself in court against these politically motivated allegations."
House rules require any committee chairman or ranking member to temporarily step aside from the leadership posts if they are indicted in connection with alleged for a crimes. Brown and her chief of staff pleaded not guilty earlier in the day to multiple fraud charges.
Brown, who took over the veterans committee leadership role in 2014, said she is innocent of the charges. Federal prosecutors have accused her of using an alleged fake charity, One Door for Education Foundation Inc., as a personal slush fund for herself and friends instead of providing scholarships to low-income students.
The 69-year-old lawmaker, whose district includes military facilities in Jacksonville, has been a controversial figure on the committee since taking she took over the leadership role. Veterans groups lobbied for other candidates for the post in late 2013, but members of the Congressional Black Caucus bristled when colleagues suggested passing over the senior Democrat.
In a statement earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CalifFla., called the charges against Brown disappointing but praised her as a "champion for America's veterans" during her time in the chamber.
A status hearing on the charges is set for July 26. Congress is scheduled to leave town for a nearly two-month summer recess starting July 15, meaning the temporary move should have little immediate impact on committee work.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.