One of the most closely watched political corruption cases in recent Philadelphia history is underway this summer. The federal corruption trial against U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah continued the week of May 23–26.
Fattah and four of his close political allies are being accused of misusing federal grants, campaign contributions and charitable donations to pay off his debts and advance his career.
On Monday, May 23, Prosecutors focused on two education nonprofits that Fattah helped create, Educational Advancement Alliance and CORE Philly. The prosectors called witnesses who testified about the organizations’ spending. In their testimony, five federal investigators described their concerns surrounding grants that were used for political gains as well as Fattah’s allies’ six-figure salaries.
According to Philly.com, Fattah has been able to secure millions of dollars in federal funding for worthy causes, including his two nonprofits. He sponsored $3.2 million in federal earmarks in 2009 and 2010 to support CORE Philly, and prosecutors allege that the charitable donations and federal grants issued to the two educational nonprofits were used to repay Fattah’s illegal $1 million campaign debt during his failed run for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007.
A top Drexel University lobbyist testified about the tuition and academic troubles of Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr., on Tuesday, May 24. Fattah’s son was assigned a payment plan three times but failed to pay his tuition so eventually he was barred from attending classes. Prosecutors alleged that Fattah solved his son’s academic debt by stealing from his campaign fund. The younger Fattah has already been found guilty of bank and tax fraud and is serving a five-year sentence in federal prison.
On Wednesday, May 25, Gregory Naylor, a former staffer and companion, explained to the federal jury that he assisted Fattah in falsifying campaign finance reports and stealing thousands of dollars of political donations. According to Philly.com, Naylor delivered the most damaging testimony so far in the government’s case. The testimony directly linked Fattah to schemes to cover up and pay back the illegal $1 million campaign loan. Naylor’s testimony was part of a plea agreement with the prosecutors due to the fact that he admitted to his own role in the crimes.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) testified for the first time in a criminal case on Thursday, May 26. Casey is the highest ranking Washington leader to appear in the nine days of the trial. He told the jury that Fattah wanted his assistance in 2008 to obtain an ambassadorship for Herbet Vederman, a politically connected lobbyist who is also being charged. On the stand, Casey said he knew nothing of bribes that prosecutors say bought Fattah’s support. Prosecutors alleged that in exchange for cash and other gifts, Fattah worked to help Vederman acquire a White House position.
The trial could last up to eight weeks.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.