Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) was indicted Wednesday on more than a dozens federal charges surrounding his unsuccessful run for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.
The 11-term Democrat and four associates were indicted on 29 federal counts, including bribery, money laundering, falsification of records and multiple counts of bank fraud, among other charges.
The longtime lawmaker maintained his innocence while speaking with reporters on Wednesday and insisted he will run for reelection next year.
“I will be on the ballot in my district,” said Fattah, who appeared relaxed when speaking after his indictment was released.
“We’ve moved from an investigation to an actual allegation,” Fattah said at the Capitol. “I think I’ll stand by my original position, which was, as an elected official, I’ve never been involved in any illegal activity or misappropriation of funds.”
“We’ll have to live with the judgment that they make,” he added, referring to his constituents.
Just a few weeks ago, Fattah was photographed on Air Force One giving a hug to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama. Fattah traveled with Obama to Philadelphia, where the president gave a speech on criminal justice reform.
The White House on Wednesday declined to comment on the charges facing Fattah but said Obama did not know about the impending indictment at the time of the Philadelphia trip.
Fattah, a senior appropriator who serves as the ranking member of the committee’s Commerce and Justice departments subpanel, stepped down from that position within hours of the announcement Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said Fattah and the others “embarked on a wide-ranging conspiracy involving bribery, concealment of unlawful campaign contributions and theft of charitable and federal funds to advance their own personal interests.”
“When elected officials betray the trust and confidence placed in them by the public, the department will do everything we can to ensure that they are held accountable,” Caldwell said in a statement. “Public corruption takes a particularly heavy toll on our democracy because it undermines people’s basic belief that our elected leaders are committed to serving the public interest, not to lining their own pockets.”
The DOJ identified the other four facing charges as Herbert Vederman, 69, a lobbyist based in Palm Beach, Fla.; Bonnie Bowser, 59, Fattah’s Philadelphia-based district director; Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, N.J.
The DOJ alleges that Fattah borrowed $1 million from a wealthy donor during his 2007 mayoral bid, returning $400,000 in unused funds and devising a scheme to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grants filtered through a non-profit — the Educational Advancement Alliance — created and headed by Fattah.
The DOJ also alleges that Fattah used funds from both his mayoral and congressional campaigns to pay down his son’s student loan debts. The repayments, totaling roughly $23,000, were paid by a political consulting company that had received the money directly from the campaigns, the DOJ alleged.
Questioned about allegations he steered funds toward his son’s student loan debt, Fattah said, “It is true that I’ve helped millions of young people go to college,” citing his other legislative efforts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a brief statement praising Fattah’s commitment to the middle class and characterizing the charges as “deeply saddening.”
“Congressman Fattah has been a tireless and effective advocate for America’s hard-working families across more than 20 years of distinguished service in the House,” Pelosi said.
“Congressman Fattah has rightly stepped down from his position as Ranking Member on the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee pending the resolution of this matter.”
—This breaking news report was last updated at 7:36 p.m.