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    Feds: Congressman Fattah helped orchestrate theft of funds

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     U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah leaves the federal courthouse in Center City, Philadelphia, after pleading not guilty to racketeering charges in August 2015 (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah leaves the federal courthouse in Center City, Philadelphia, after pleading not guilty to racketeering charges in August 2015 (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    In a stunning development, federal prosecutors alleged in a court filing that an elected official who can only be U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah had arranged an illegal campaign contribution for his 2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign, and had, with others, “orchestrated the theft of federal grant funds and other grant funds to repay the outstanding balance of the campaign debt.”

    Fattah, a Democratic congressman since his election in 1994, was not charged with any crime.

    The remarkable accusations came in a plea memorandum for Gregory Naylor, a longtime political consultant and former Fattah staffer. Naylor pleaded guilty to lying about his role in arranging the use of campaign funds to repay $22,663 in student loans owed by the son of someone described in the document as “Elected Official A.”

    From the actions attributed to him in the memo, Elected Official A can only be Congeressman Fattah (a federal official who ran for mayor in 2007 and sued to try and overturn the city’s campaign finance limits).

    According to the memorandum, after losing his legal battle to overturn the contribution limits, “Elected Official A engaged in a scheme to violate the applicable Philadelphia campaign finance laws and contribution limits by secretly arranging for and receiving an illegal $1 million campaign contribution in the form of a personal loan from longtime friend and political supporter, Person D.”

    The memo says the loan wasn’t reported on campaign finance reports, and its use was routed through political consultants employed by the campaign. Person D wanted to be repaid later, and the plea memorandum describes a series of transactions and communications among companies and nonprofits with connections to Fattah that tapped federal grants to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to Person D.

    The whole thing is pretty complicated, and you can read the details in the plea memorandum here. You can read the charges against Naylor and the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office here.We were unable to reach Fattah by phone yesterday. His attorney, Luther Weaver, declined comment. When Fox 29 interviewed Fattah last October about some federal subpoenas for his tax records, Fattah said, “I’m a senior congressman, and any activities I’m involved in are appropriate for review, and I assume that any review will be appropriate.”

    Later, he added, “There are no circumstances in which I would ever do anything that would embarrass my constituents or my family.”

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