Congressional Black Caucus chair indicted on racketeering charges

crime | Jul 29, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-Penn), 58, and four others were indicted on July 29 in a Federal racketeering case that involves an allegation of the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, campaign, and charitable funds related to his abortive 2007 mayoral bid. They were charged inter alia with:  bribery; conspiracy to commit wire, honest services, bank and mail fraud; and money laundering. Congressman Fattah’s associates include his congressional district director, Bonnie Bowser, and lobbyist Herbert Vederman of Palm Beach FL.
 
Federal prosecutors contend that the scheme included the use of federal grants and charitable contributions to Congressman Fattah's educational foundation to pay back part of a $1 million loan from a wealthy supporter, and arranging a federal grant in lieu of a $130,000 payment to a political consultant. "The public does not expect their elected officials to misuse campaign funds, misappropriate government funds, accept bribes or commit bank fraud," U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said. "These type of criminal acts betray the public trust and undermine faith in government."
 
The FBI charges that Vederman allegedly paid Fattah $18,000 to gain an ambassadorship. "In another alleged scheme, beginning in 2008, Fattah communicated with individuals in the legislative and executive branches in an effort to secure for Vederman an ambassadorship or an appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission," according to an FBI statement. "In exchange, Vederman provided money and other items of value to Fattah. As part of this scheme, the indictment alleges that the defendants sought to conceal an $18,000 bribe payment from Vederman to Fattah by disguising it as a payment for a car sale that never actually took place," the statement read.
 
Approached by journalists at his office, Fattah said that he has not received the indictment. However, he contends that he has "never been involved in any wrong doing, any unlawful activity and any misappropriation of federal funds." Nonetheless, the congressman said he will recuse himself from  leadership positions on the House Appropriations Committee until the matter is resolved. "I am going to keep doing my work," he said. The indictment should not be a "distraction," he said, adding, "This is a normal issue of which there are allegations after a very long running eight year investigation."
 
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the indictment, "The charges in the indictment against Congressman Chaka Fattah are 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."
 
Speaking in an interview with NBC, James Clyburn (D-SC) said that he hopes for the best for his colleague. "He also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus' Foundation and I'm assuming he will step aside from any official role in that as well until all of this is cleared up," Clyburn told NBC News. Fattah is currently the chairman of the organization's board of directors. "I would hope that he would move forthrightly to make sure that neither one of these entities — the Democratic caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — will suffer any undue harm or attention because of this possible distraction." The  Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has yet released a statement. 
 
In response, Star Parker – a noted critic of black Democrats – said in a statement, "This is par for the course for the so-called leaders in the black community. Like black-overseers on a slave plantation, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been complicit in keeping blacks dependent on government, while enriching themselves on the engorged teat of that same government. Today’s twenty-nine count indictment is a testament to the corruption manifested in the CBC. Here we have a member who represents a congressional district with twice the poverty rate of the national average, while using campaign funds to pay personal debts. It is time to break the shackles that the CBC has over our black communities and enable the poor to get off the government dole. We can do this through creating opportunity, dismantling our ghettos, and providing educational choice. The time is now.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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