Corruption charges lead to war of words between Abraham, Kenney [updated]

 Seth Williams' corruption-charges announcement led to a nasty war of words between Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Seth Williams' corruption-charges announcement led to a nasty war of words between Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

When District Attorney Seth Williams announced charges against three additional current and former Pennsylvania lawmakers from Philadelphia in an ongoing corruption case Tuesday, mayoral candidate Jim Kenney wasted little time to take a shot at former DA, and primary foe, Lynne Abraham.

In a statement released several hours after Williams’ announcement, Kenney’s campaign questioned Abraham’s commitment to pursuing corruption cases while she served as DA.

“Today, District Attorney Seth Williams showed real leadership in investigating political corruption,” it read. “It is essential that we hold our elected officials accountable, but, unfortunately, that has been a priority missing from the DA’s office in the past.

“Lynne Abraham routinely refused to prosecute political corruption in her nearly two decades as DA. As Mayor, I look forward to partnering with DA Williams so that corruption is never again ‘business as usual’ in Philadelphia.”

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Well, the Abraham camp responded with a statement of its own on Wednesday morning. And in that response, it drew attention to Kenney’s ties to disgraced former state Sen. Vince Fumo and defended Abraham’s 1991-2010 tenure as DA.

Saying that Abraham “is the only person running for mayor with a proven record of fighting corruption,” her campaign then listed her corruption curriculum vitae.

“No one will do more to ensure the honest, transparent government Philadelphia needs and deserves. District Attorney Abraham’s office conducted both joint Federal, State, and local investigations of public corruption and also investigated public corruption by her office alone. The use of the District Attorney’s investigative grand jury uncovered allegations of public corruption in virtually every Department of City Government, including: the Philadelphia Police Department; Medical Examiner’s Office; the Philadelphia Gas Works; the Departments of Health, Recreation, Revenue, Recorder of Deeds, Streets, Commerce, Probation, Licenses and Inspections, Water, School District, Prisons, C.L.I.P. Program, Park Police, and Human Services, the Philadelphia Parking Authority; the Philadelphia Fire Department; Independence Seaport Museum; the Mayor’s Office; the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Departments of Public Welfare, and the L.I.H.E.A.P. of the Department of Public Welfare. Each investigation resulted in public “report to the People” and, where warranted, arrests and prosecution.”

Then, came the Fumo shot heard ’round the Philly political world.

“By contrast, Jim Kenney is the product and protégé of one of our city’s poster boys for the bad old days of corruption and insider politics: ex-Senator Vince Fumo,” Abraham’s statement read. “Kenney was one of Fumo’s closest allies and got elected to Council thanks to Fumo’s backing.

“Kenney remained one of Fumo’s closest allies right up until Fumo was caught, charged with defrauding taxpayers and non-profits. Fumo, Kenney’s mentor, was convicted on March 19, 2009, of 137 counts of corruption, conspiracy and fraud.”


After this story posted, Kenney campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt fired back with a comment that veered into another controversy: Abraham only released her 2013 tax returns while other candidates furnished the Inquirer with three years of returns.

“Jim hasn’t worked for Fumo in nearly three decades or spoken to him in nearly 10” years, Hitt told NinetyNine. “Lynne Abraham is drudging up old, tired attacks to hide the fact that she’s currently refusing to release her tax returns.

“None of the candidates can help where they’re from, but they should be held accountable for their actions today. Voters deserve to know what Lynne Abraham is hiding in her tax returns.”

She also provided an Inquirer link to back up the assertion that “Abraham avoided political corruption cases.”

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