Nina Turner Opponent Facing Potential Ethics Probe for $17 Million in Contracts

Shontel Brown, who is running against progressive Nina Turner in the Democratic primary race for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, may be under an ethics probe by the state of Ohio for contracts she voted to award to her partner.

Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Chair and city council member, had voted in 2017 to award Cleveland contractor Perk with a series of contracts totaling $17 million, The Intercept found. Her partner, Mark Perkins, has close ties to Perk. Brown’s campaign has received $13,000 in donations from Perkins’s family and the Cifani family, who own Perk.

Now, The Daily Poster has found that Brown may be under an ethics investigation by the state of Ohio for the contracts. The publication reviewed emails that showed that the Ohio state auditor’s office has reviewed The Intercept’s findings and has referred them to the state ethics commission.

The establishment-backed candidate’s votes to award the contract were despite the fact that she had pledged to “recuse herself from county contracts with ties to Mark Perkins as necessary” in 2014, The Intercept pointed out. Perkins and Brown were engaged at one point and public records show that they have shared addresses.

Perkins often works with Perk through his company, McTech. Perkins’s uncle had founded Perk, and other members of his family own businesses that regularly work with Perk.

The revelations come just a week before the special election, and come amid a fierce campaign by establishment Democrats against Turner, a progressive and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) surrogate. Turner is supportive of progressive proposals like Medicare for All and has been welcomed with open arms by progressives in Congress, gaining the support of people like Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

Brown, meanwhile, has the backing of Democrats like Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina). Her campaign has also been helped along by Third Way, a Wall-Street funded Democratic think tank known for attacking progressives, which spent $250,000 on ads opposing Turner last week.

Other outside forces have also come to Brown’s aid in her attempt to defeat Turner. A pro-Israel PAC has spent $738,000 opposing Turner and $203,000 supporting Brown. They join a coterie of corporate lobbyists who have also held fundraisers for Brown.

The amount of money being poured into the primary campaign from monied interests shows the establishment’s fear of Turner being elected. Polling shows Turner ahead of Brown, and the progressive has built a name for herself among the left.

But, as Normon Solomon pointed out in Salon, figures like Clyburn endorsing Brown shows “high-ranking Democrats are more determined than ever to keep Turner out of Congress if they possibly can.”

Progressives have drawn parallels between the establishment’s determination to get Brown rather than Turner elected and the recent fervor among establishment Democrats to crush Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton, an avowed socialist who defeated the incumbent Democratic mayor last month. In Buffalo, establishment Democrats have been fearmongering about Walton’s politics, resorting to McCarthyist Red Scare tactics.

This week, the Buffalo Common Council, made up of nine Democrats, has begun exploring the possibility of doing away with the office of mayor in city government. It appears that they are making such a drastic move just to avoid having a socialist mayor, echoing the extreme election tactics of Republicans around the country.