The Chaka Fattah Trial: Riveting!!

Chaka Fattah was truly a success story in the rough and tumble arena of politics in Philadelphia.  His Mother, Falaka Fattah was the Founder of the House of Umoja.  This organization provided a refuge for the youth that were trying to escape the horrors of gang warfare in our city.  He was a State Senator and a State Representative for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  As he recounted in his campaign speeches, he bought millions to the 2nd Congressional District during his tenure in Congress.  In fact, he never faced any opposition after unseating Lucien Blackwell in 1995.  Dwight Evans unseated him in the recent primary and at this point in time, Congressman Fattah will have to forge another career path.

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The FBI had been investigating Congressman Fattah ever since his failed mayoral bid back in 2007.  Congressman Fattah was renowned for his ground game.  In layman's terms, this represents the ability to get out street workers on the day of an election.  This is not done based on pure loyalty to the Fattah brand.  A candidate must feed and pay workers to get ballots out to voters.  A recent candidate for City Council is suing because he/she paid for election day services that never materialized.  It is hard to guarantee turnout in areas other than Mount Airy and West Oak Lane.  Some poll workers will take a candidate's money and proceed to do other things on election day.  It was reported that a representative for Candidate Fattah, Gregory Naylor, distributed almost $200,000.00 on election day in 2007.  Mr Naylor has already pleaded guilty for his role in the campaign finance fraud that took place during this election.  Mr. Fattah is apparently indicating that he paid the WAM(Walking Around Money) and did other illegal activities on his own.

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It seems as if the source of the Congressman's legal troubles began when his campaign was experiencing trouble raising money.  Then Councilman Nutter had implemented campaign finance changes that limited donations to $2,500.00 for individuals.  This was a smart move in a race that featured millionaire Tom Knox.  Candidate Knox was able to self-finance his campaign and feature commercials and radio ads.  Candidate Fattah observed these activities and must have been desperate to stay relevant in the race.  Albert Lord was the Chairman of Sallie Mae and a long time contributor to Democratic candidates at the time of his alleged loan to Candidate Fattah.  I wonder why someone would lend $1 million if the need to get paid back was so great.  It is the circuitous route that many of Congressman Fattah's confidantes took to repay this loan that is the basis for his present legal troubles.

Congressman Fattah is alleging an FBI conspiracy against himself and his family.  Unfortunately, Chip Fattah, acting as his own attorney, made the same type of assertions.  He is currently serving a five year sentence in federal prison when it was proven that he committed honest services fraud and bilked a bank out of a loan based on false documents.  He was living the high life in the Ritz Carlton and driving expensive cars.  It was proven to be a mirage by the FBI.  His college friend testified against him and the results were a blow to the conspiracy theory.  I often wondered why the FBI would target a sitting Congressman who easily recounted his accomplishments during he reelection efforts.  He sounded so confident that I started to think that the feds were making a mistake.  Some of the recent testimony in the trial makes me wonder how the Congressman can beat this case.

There is the question of the $18k paid for a Porsche that was kept in the Fattah garage well after the sale was completed on paper.  There was the incessant lobbying on behalf of Herb Vederman who allegedly bought the car but did not have a garage to store it.  Mr. Vederman's girlfriend, as recounted in the Daily News yesterday, was hired quickly, during difficult budget times, for a $40k Archival job that many of his staffers did not know what the job entailed.  I feel sorry for the travails of Bonnie Bowser.  She was a Congressional District Director for the Congressman before she was indicted on trying to repay Chip Fattah's student loans and other irregularities.  She has had to hire an attorney and defend herself against these serious charges.  I knew her to be an honest and dedicate public servant.

The trial is expected to last about eight weeks.  I think that we are finishing week three.  I can imagine that everyone's legal bills are astronomical.  However the trial ends, I would hope that public servants take pause to realize that the offices that they occupy are public and that things done in the dark eventually come to light.  Ask John Perzel, Vince Fumo, Louise Williams Bishop and Ron Waters.  John Estey was a former aide to Governor Rendell.  He had to plead guilty to public corruption.  Anyone remember Corey Kemp and Ron White from the John Street era?  It is tough to free oneself once the facts build up implicating you in using public money for personal gain.  I wish Congressman Fattah luck on the outcome of this trial.  It is really hard to make up this much evidence based on hearsay and some type of conspiracy.

P.S. Congressman Fattah was convicted on 22 counts by the feds.  He wanted to resign on October 3rd.  He resigned immediately after pressure was applied from members of the House.  It is a sad ending to a once promising career.

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