By Burney Simpson
WASHINGTON D.C.—Congressman Chaka Fattah on Tuesday pled not guilty to the 29-count federal indictment charging him and three others with fraud, racketeering and conspiracy arising from Fattah’s run for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007.
Following his indictment, Fattah released a statement, claiming “(t)his has been an eight-year effort by some in the Department of Justice to link my public service career to some form of wrongdoing. … This misguided campaign has now moved from speculation to specific allegations.”
Fattah was released on $100,000 bail following his plea, according to AP.
Fattah remains in office during the trial but the indictment has been a body blow to the power base he has built in Washington since he was first elected to Congress in 1994.
He stepped down from his position as ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Committee. The subcommittee oversees billions in federal spending, including the budget of the Justice Department.
In addition, Fattah was replaced as chairman of the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the non-profit research organization that hosts the annual legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus. This year’s conference will be held Sept. 16-20 in the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Real estate investor and developer R. Donahue “Don” Peebles was named the chairman of the board of the CBCF. Peebles is founder and chairman of the Peebles Corp., a privately-held, multi-billion dollar development firm with properties that include hotels, and residential and commercial buildings from Boston south to Miami, and west to San Francisco.
A federal grand jury charged Fattah and four others in July with bribery, falsifying documents, money laundering, concealing unlawful campaign contributions, and theft of charitable and federal funds. The indictment claims Fattah moved campaign contributions around various funds he controlled to reward supporters and pay bills, including $23,000 of his son’s student loan debt.
The case has been hanging over Fattah since last fall when an aide pleaded guilty to helping the Congressman with the scheme. Fattah’s son has been indicted in a related but separate case.