After yielding his seat in Congress, Fattah likely to lose pension and freedom

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Under House ethics laws

Under House ethics laws

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah is expected to become the first federal lawmaker to lose his or her federal pension benefits after being convicted on corruption charges while in office.

Fattah, who resigned Thursday, was found guilty of racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and other offenses following a monthlong trial.

Under House ethics laws, some of the counts against Fattah could automatically bar him from collecting his pension because they’re tied to crimes connected to his official duties in Congress.

“Assuming those convictions stand,” said Peter Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union.

If Fattah enrolled in a pension program the first year he was elected, he’s entitled to roughly $55,000 a year. His salary was $174,000.

Fattah’s lawyers have not said whether the congressman will appeal Tuesday’s guilty verdict.

Fattah will keep his state pension, earned from his days serving in Harrisburg, first as a state representative, then as a state senator.

Fattah’s state plan pays out $4,862.16 a year, according to pension records obtained by NewsWorks.org.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has 10 days to select a date for a special election to fill Fattah’s seat through the end of the year.

The earliest it could happen is late August, though it could be held as late as the general election in November.

In a statement, a Wolf spokesman said, “no final decision regarding a date has been made at this time.

Democratic Party leaders in the 2nd Congressional District will caucus and pick a nominee, who will be the odds-on favorite to win. Roughly 80 percent of registered voters in the district are Democrats.

Election lawyers say state Rep. Dwight Evans is a safe bet to be on the ballot. He ended Fattah’s two-decade political career after winning April’s Democratic primary.

Wolf endorsed Evans during that race.

“If nothing else, he’ll have that additional month of two of seniority over the other members of his class being elected for the first time in 2016. I have no reason to believe they’ll selected someone else,” said attorney Adam Bonin.

Fattah resigned from Congress early Thursday after initially telling House leaders he planned to hold office until Oct. 3 — a day before he’s scheduled to be sentenced in federal court. Fattah, 59, faces decades in prison.

In his letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Fattah said he stepped down sooner “out of respect for the entire House Leadership, as so as not to cause a distraction from the House’s work for the people.”

The letter, released by Fattah’s office just after 1 p.m. Thursday, also details some of the congressman’s accomplishments, including GEAR UP, a national college-readiness program that’s served millions of students after nearly two decades.

“As a result of my work in Congress, tens of thousands of families throughout the Philadelphia region now live in affordable revitalized housing; major investments have been [made] to the city’s infrastructure; and millions of dollars have been invested in K-12 education and University research and outreach efforts,” wrote Fattah.

He declined comment.

In the scheme at the heart of the government’s indictment, Fattah took an illegal $1 million loan to help his failed bid for Philadelphia mayor in 2007, then stole federal grants intended awarded to a nonprofit to help repay part of the loan.

The nonprofit Education Advancement Alliance was also used as a “pass through” to funnel the money back to the original lender, a wealthy executive.

In another scheme, Fattah accepted bribes from a wealthy friend who wanted to become a U.S. ambassador.

For nearly a year after being indicted, Fattah called the charges against him “frivolous” and a  “smear.”

A jury disagreed and found him guilty on all charges. Four co-defendants were convicted alongside Fattah.

 

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