Philly political operative gets a year in jail

    John McDaniel, the former campaign manager for City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown who was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to a job at the airport, got a one-year prison sentence late Tuesday — and none of the reporters in attendance got any clue as to what may be going on in other federal investigations.

     

    There was no mention of McDaniel assisting the feds in any other matters, though prosecutor Paul Gray referred to a sealed letter he’d sent to Judge Mary McLaughlin. Asked about that after the sentencing hearing, Gray had nothing to say about the letter’s contents.

    Judge McLaughlin was about as kind as anyone could expect to McDaniel, who appeared with family support, a remorseful attitude and no prior criminal record. McLaughlin’s sentence was less than the federal guideline recommendation of 15-21 months. Further, she waived a fine and permitted McDaniel to pay his $103,650 restitution at a rate of $100 a month.

    At that pace, it will take the 41-year-old McDaniel more than 85 years to finish his payments. She also waived interest. It’s mighty generous. On the other hand, the theft was from Reynolds Brown’s campaign fund and another political committee he controlled, so it’s not like anybody will be around to complain about being shorted.

    Gray said it was important that McDaniel serve some jail time as a deterrent to people tempted to abuse their positions in the political system. He made the point that political theft often goes undetected.

    “Mr. McDaniel, for instance, got away with this for two years by filing a number of false, bogus expense reports,” Gray said. “So these are the kind of crimes that people don’t usually come to the forefront with, and that’s why a period of incarceration seems especially important.”

    Amen.

    I’m convinced that campaign finance reports are routinely full of lies, and I hope District Attorney Seth Williams’ new public corruption unit will give them some routine scrutiny in the future. I’m telling you, there’s stuff in there for a man or woman with subpoena power.

    We don’t know any more about what may be in store for Reynolds Brown, who’s already admitted to city campaign finance and ethics violations but hasn’t faced criminal charges. And there’s the matter of Chaka Fattah Jr., known to friends as “Chip.” His supporters have acknowledged that the feds are looking into his financial dealings, and it’s unclear whether the events swirling around Reynolds Brown and McDaniel will have anything more than a tangential connection.

    One of the infractions Reynolds Brown admitted to was repaying a loan from Chip Fattah with campaign funds, a clear no-no. We’ll keep an eye on it.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.