PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania congressman who has received the backing of Philadelphia’s African American clergy throughout his 11 terms in office has been convicted of 22 corruption counts and has subsequently resigned from his seat in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia) submitted his resignation on Thursday after a jury found him guilty of all counts surrounding accusations that he had misused federal grants and nonprofit funding to repay an illegal loan from his 2007 mayoral run.
According to reports, Fattah allegedly sought to circumvent campaign funding laws by pursuing a $1 million loan from Sallie Mae chairman Albert Lord. As he lost the primaries, he employed various tactics to repay Lord, including routing grant money and nonprofit funds through consultants.
Fattah was later charged with racketeering, money laundering, bribery and fraud, among other criminal counts.
“Chaka Fattah Sr. and his co-defendants betrayed the public trust and undermined our faith in government,” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement following the verdict. “Today’s verdict makes clear that the citizens of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania expect their public officials to act with honesty and integrity, and to not sell their office for personal gain.”
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called for Fattah’s resignation, as did House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“The conviction of Rep. Fattah highlights another sad example of the kind of ethical failure we should never see from Congress,” Bookbinder said in a statement. “Fattah used his office for his own personal gain, as well as that of his friends and family. He should resign from Congress immediately.”
Fattah has served in politics for over 30 years, as he was elected as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1983 and became a state senator in 1988. During his tenure, the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage candidate obtained support from Philadelphia’s black clergy.
“He remained in the state senate until 1994, at which time he again ran for the Second District seat and this time— backed by Philadelphia’s African-American clergy and running as a Democrat—garnered 86 percent of the vote,” the site Discover the Networks outlines. “He was subsequently re-elected by huge margins every two years through 2014, generally receiving between 86 and 98 percent of the popular vote.”
Fattah also noted in April while running a re-election campaign prior to the start of his trial, “I have the party’s support, the city ward structure, which is critically important to anyone’s effort, [as] it puts you in the realm of winning. You’ll be in the final decision package. Then you add labor. … Then the clergy. I have very significant support.”
On April 14, the Facebook group “Women for Fattah” posted, “Thank you Greater Philadelphia Clergy Union for your endorsement and the important work you are doing to enfranchise voters. Chaka told clergy going forward he will email churches with weekly updates of news and information important to the community.”
At the end of Fattah’s criminal trial this month, Terrence Griffith, senior pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Tribune that he believes the Congressman should be remembered positively despite his alleged crimes.
“I’ve known him for many years,” Griffith said. “He has spent more than 20 years in Congress, and his constituents reelected him many times, so obviously, the constituents were pleased with his services. I think he has done a remarkably in terms of education; he has pushed for that. That will be his legacy—how he encouraged people to strive for higher education.”
Fattah, 59, will face a formal sentencing in October.