Democratic PA congressman loses primary on eve of his corruption trial

How do you get rid of a two decade incumbent Democratic congressman in deep blue Philadelphia? It’s a tricky chore in the best of times, but it apparently can be done. In the case of Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania’s second district, you can manage the feat by indicting him on corruption charges and scheduling a trial. Last night in the City of Brotherly Love Fattah was defeated in a four way contest and will end his more than twenty year run representing the region in Congress. (ABC News Channel 6)

Indicted Pennsylvania congressman Chaka Fattah, facing his first primary fight in two decades, has lost the Democratic primary just before the start of his federal corruption trial.

Fattah, an 11-term U.S. representative, had been outspent in the race as he struggled to raise funds for both the campaign and his defense lawyers. He was ousted on Tuesday by a 36-year state lawmaker, Rep. Dwight Evans, in his first primary fight in two decades.

Fattah has represented the Philadelphia region in Washington for two decades and served on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

As Ed reported last summer, a lengthy investigation into Fattah’s activities led to RICO charges against him and the scheduling of a trial which will kick off in the next couple of weeks. The list of charges is daunting and had apparently been one of those widely whispered about, known secrets in Philly for quite some time. We’re not talking about accounting errors where contributions are listed under the wrong column on your FEC forms or a supporter randomly donating more than the maximum allowed here. Fattah allegedly was blatantly accepting bribes from individuals seeking government favor and taking both the bribe money and some of his campaign contributions to enrich himself and his circle of friends and family members.

As recently as January, a federal judge warned the congressman that he needed to rethink his priorities and start taking the trial seriously instead of focusing on winning another term. (Philadelphia.com)

A federal judge warned U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah to rethink his priorities on Tuesday after the congressman said he was more concerned about raising money for his re-election than his upcoming racketeering trial.

Fattah’s defense team asked to be released from the case because the four lawyers weren’t being paid. The complex fraud trial is set for trial on May 2. Fattah, an 11-term Democrat, is accused of accepting bribes and misusing nonprofit funds and government grants.

“You need to take this matter seriously and think long and hard about your priorities,” U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III told Fattah.

Noting his $174,000 congressional salary, the judge said Fattah was hardly “a pauper” who could get a public defender.

You can read the full indictment here and it’s ugly. In the meantime, Philadelphia has possibly done themselves a favor by unloading Fattah, but they appear poised to simply replace him with a younger Democrat who is equally steeped in Philly politics. Will anything change? If nothing else, the winner will be more careful with his finances when he gets into office.

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