Chaka Fattah, the 11-term Pennsylvania congressman and long time gun control advocate, was sentenced this week to 120 months in prison after being convicted of a slew of bribery charges.
Fattah was convicted in June on racketeering, bribery, wire fraud, honest services fraud, and money laundering conspiracies, according to this story from guns.com The ex-legislator was also ordered to pay some $600,000 in restitutions.
The former congressman and four associates were indicted in 2015 by authorities on allegations he was involved in a complex money laundering scheme going back to his failed bid for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007. Once his trial came to light, it was revealed he misappropriated funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay his son’s student loan debt.
This story from ABC says Fattah focused his attention while in Congress on issues that concerned mostly poor districts while he and his TV anchor wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah, took in more than $500,000 a year. The story says his finances grew dire after the failed mayoral campaign in 2007 ad that he took an illegal $1 million loan from a friend who was also the chairman of Sallie Mae, the student loan corporation—a loan that was later called in, leading to more financial issues for Fattah. He returned $400,000 of it an repaid some of the rest with federal grant money he redirected to an education non-profit run by former aides, the story says.
He also accepted an $18,000 bribe from a man seeking an ambassadorship, directed associates to apply for federal grants for non-existent non-profit organizations, and created fake contracts and made false entires in accounting records, tax returns, and campaign finance disclosure statements. One time, he even passed off a bribe in the form of a sham car sale. There wasn’t much, it seems, that Fattah did above board.
“Chaka Fattah represented his district in Congress for over 20 years,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster in a statement by the Justice Department this week. “And, if not for his sheer greed and venality, probably could have kept his seat for 20 more.”
“For someone so interested in advancing education for the disadvantages, you had the temerity to steal from the Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit supported by government funds,” U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle said. “While you have done much good, you also engaged in grave and widespread criminal activity.”
The story says Fattah, a Democrat, was born as Arthur Davenport in Philadelphia and his mother changed his name when he was a boy to acknowledge their African heritage. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from the West Philadelphia area in 1983 and left the state legislature in 1994 when he won the state’s 2nd district, a seat he held for a whopping 22 years until he was forced to resign following his June conviction.
Fattah’s gun control voting record was consistent through the years. One of his first votes was in opposition of repealing the Federal Assault Weapon ban in 1996, the story says. After that, Fattah:
voted for the 72 hour background check amendment in 1999
voted against arming pilots in 2002 after the 9/11 terror attacks
voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005
voted for more gun restrictions in 2009
voted against exempting guns from bankruptcy proceedings in 2010
repeatedly voted against mandates to expand concealed carry reciprocity.
“I’ve helped tens of millions of people,” Fattah said before severely downplaying the seriously of his crimes. “(That) has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury.”
During his 22-year career, Fattah was an open enemy of those who support gun rights. He was consistently given an “F” grade by the National Rifle Association, a group he more than once openly challenged. Fattah was also made the vice chair on a gun violence prevention task force created in 2013 by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which backed bans on magazines, “armor-piercing” bullets, and firearms labeled as “assault weapons.”
This year, Fattah publicly supported President Obama’s list of Executive Actions on guns, and followed that up in June by applauding a filibuster in the Senate that forced a vote on gun control issues shortly before his conviction in June.
Four of Fattah’s co-defendants who helped him move government grants and other money will be sentenced throughout the week, which includes former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, of Palm Springs, Florida.
Fattah’s son is currently serving a five-year prison term in an overlapping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr. was convicted of using fraudulently obtained business loans to fund his jet-set lifestyle, the ABC story says.
Fattah’s wife was never charged or implicated in any wrongdoing.
Fattah will begin his sentence on January 25.