Politics

Longtime Dem Congressman Embroiled in Corruption Charges Loses Primary

Chaka Fattah, who is facing 29 criminal charges, loses Democratic primary to Dwight Evans

Chaka Fattah
Chaka Fattah / AP

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), who is currently facing more than two dozen corruption charges that include bribery and racketeering, has lost his congressional primary in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania State Representative Dwight Evans defeated Fattah by six percentage points, according to election returns.

Fattah first entered Congress in 1995 and has easily won each of his elections since. However, four Democratic challengers jumped into the 2016 race, sensing vulnerability stemming from his current legal troubles.

A PPP poll conducted in January showed he trailed Evans by 16 points. Much of his trouble stemmed from his legal charges, as only 39 percent polled said they had a favorable view of the Fattah.

Fattah and four associates were indicted in July of last year on 29 corruption charges that stemmed from their roles in a racketeering conspiracy that included schemes to "further their political and financial interests" by misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, campaign, and charitable funds.

The Department of Justice said that Fattah took an illegal $1 million loan from a wealthy supporter during his failed Philadelphia mayoral campaign in 2007 and disguised the funds as a loan to his consulting company.

After the campaign had ended, Fattah allegedly used a scheme to repay the loan through grants and charitable funds that were made from his nonprofit, the Educational Advancement Alliance, and passed through two other companies. Sham contracts were allegedly created to conceal the contributions and repayment scheme. False entries were additionally entered into accounting records, tax returns, and campaign finance disclosure statements.

Lobbyist Herbert Vederman, Fattah’s Congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, consultant Robert Brand, and CEO of the Educational Advancement Alliance, Karen Nicholas, were all charged alongside Fattah for their alleged involvement in the schemes.

"As charged in the indictment, Congressman Fattah and his associates embarked on a wide-ranging conspiracy involving bribery, concealment of unlawful campaign contributions and theft of charitable and federal funds to advance their own personal interests," Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said of the indictment.

"When elected officials betray the trust and confidence placed in them by the public, the department will do everything we can to ensure that they are held accountable," she continued. "Public corruption takes a particularly heavy toll on our democracy because it undermines people’s basic belief that our elected leaders are committed to serving the public interest, not to lining their own pockets."

At the time of his indictment, Fattah claimed that it was a vendetta against him by individuals at the Justice Department.

"This has been an eight-year effort by some in the Department of Justice to link my public service career to some form of wrongdoing," he said.

Fattah and his associates face a total of 29 charges for their schemes that include: one count of RICO conspiracy; one count of wire fraud conspiracy; one count of honest services wire fraud conspiracy; one count of mail fraud conspiracy; one count of false statements to banks; two counts of bribery; one count of conspiracy; two counts of bribery; one count of conspiracy; six counts of mail fraud; three counts of wire fraud; one count of bank fraud; eight counts of falsification of records; one count of money laundering conspiracy; two counts of money laundering; and forfeiture allegations.

Fattah maintains his innocence and says he is confident that he will win at trial.