The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and four of his associates were indicted on federal corruption charges in connection with an alleged racketeering scheme.
Fattah was charged with bribery, fraud, and money laundering, among other crimes, in a 29-count indictment. Fattah’s congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, his former aide Karen Nicholas, campaign contributor Robert Brand and lobbyist Herbert Vederman were also charged in the indictment.
“Congressman Fattah and his associates 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,” Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in a news release from the Justice Department. “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.”
Some of the charges stem from Fattah’s failed 2007 campaign for mayor in Philadelphia. The indictment alleged that Fattah and his associates created sham contracts and falsified records in order to conceal a $1 million contribution to that campaign and then repay the donor after he lost, according to the DOJ release. The indictment also alleged that Fattah promised a $15 million federal grant to a consultant to whom he owed $130,000 in campaign debt in exchange for the forgiveness of that debt, according to the release.
In addition, the indictment alleged that Fattah misappropriated funds from both his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay $23,000 of his son’s student loan debt and had taken bribes from Vederman, the lobbyist, in exchange for pushing to get him an ambassadorship or an appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission, according to the release.
Fattah addressed the allegations in the indictment just after noon outside his Capitol Hill office.
“I’ll stand by my previous statement that I’ve never been involved in any wrongdoing, any unlawful activity and any misappropriation of federal funds,” he told NBC News’ Luke Russert.
The congressman noted that the indictment appeared just now after what he said was a years-long investigation, making a reference to the scandal surrounding deflated footballs that’s currently rocking the New England Patriots.
“This is not Deflategate,” he said. “This is a normal issue of which there are allegations after a very long running, eight-year investigation… if you look back in the records, there have been press reports on this and subpoenas flying for at least eight years. So we now have actual allegations. We’ll have a chance to respond.”
Fattah added that he planned to to recuse himself from his leadership position on the House Appropriations Committee while he fights the charges.
Read the indictment below:
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.