A new nonpartisan website has its sights set on taking down a veteran Philadelphia lawmaker – at the polls.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was recently re-elected to an 11th term in Congress, but has had controversy shadowing him for years.
Launched in August, Crowdpac.com hopes to drum up contenders with a Kickstarter-style campaign that gives voters the chance to pledge support for people who may be mulling a run against the deep-pocketed and deeply connected Democrat.
“More names is huge because what that means is that you’re giving voters more choice,” said Liz Jaff, a political director with Crowdpac. “You might actually excite voters to actually vote in the primary.”
Nearly 20 people are now listed as possible contenders for Fattah in the next primary, including elected officials who support him.
Voters can pledge money to any one of them.
Potential candidates won’t see any of the funds unless they actually decide to run, though they can keep tabs on how they stack up in the meantime.
“The idea is to start the narrative before people can come in with tons of money, before the Democratic or Republican infrastructure can say here’s who’s running and here’s who we support,” said Jaff.
As of Wednesday, former mayoral candidate Doug Oliver, who tied for second-to-last in the Democratic primary, was atop the leader board. He said he’s “honored” and “flattered” that he’s being thought of for the 2nd Congressional District seat, but he’s got no definitive plans to challenge Fattah.
He does like what Crowdpac is doing, though.
“It at least says you’re not alone. There’s a world of people who you can see to offer support,” said Oliver.
Others on the list are not as convinced – quite the opposite, in fact.
Troubling and foolish were a couple of the adjectives thrown out.
“It’s purely political,” said Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, a former aide to Fattah. “It’s just another tool for the moment.”
State Sen. Vincent Hughes said getting rid of an experienced politician such as Fattah would be “dumb.”
“It would be foolish to lose someone with 20 years as a Democratic chairman of an Appropriations Committee, who’s brought back resources for the district,” said Hughes.
Not surprisingly, neither Hughes nor Bass say they have plans to run against Fattah, both adding they are “1,000 percent” behind him.
Fattah could not be reached for comment.
For years now, Fattah has won re-election with vote counts hovering near 90 percent, even as federal investigators continue to comb through his past. Two former aides have also pleaded guilty to campaign fraud.
According to a late-August plea deal, two taxpayer-supported nonprofits founded by Fattah were among the conduits used to help repay an illegal $1 million campaign loan received while he was running for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.
The loan exceeded the city’s $5,000 donation limit.
Fattah is not named specifically in the plea deal, only as “Elected Official A,” but all the details of it make the connection clear.
Fattah, who is not facing any criminal charges, has denied any wrongdoing since the allegations surfaced.