Rep. Chaka Fattah paid off a campaign loan with charitable donations and federal grants, funneled campaign money to pay down his son's student loan debt, and disguised a lobbyist's bribe as payment for a car he never sold, prosecutors said today in announcing a racketeering indictment against the congressman. The 11th-term Pennsylvania Democrat led a conspiracy that engaged in bribery, fraud, money laundering, and other crimes, and netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal investigators said. The 29-count indictment describes four distinct schemes, two involving efforts to pay down debt from Fattah's failed 2007 mayoral bid in Philadelphia. Fattah, 58, vowed to remain in office and fight the charges.
The Justice Department charges that Fattah used federal grants and donations to his educational foundation to pay back part of a wealthy campaign supporter's $1 million loan and that he helped arrange a $15 million federal grant for a nonexistent nonprofit in lieu of a $130,000 payment to a political consultant toward the campaign debt. In the indictment, prosecutors said the Democrat and his district director, Bonnie Bowser, passed mayoral and congressional campaign funds through a political consulting company to make 34 student loan payments on behalf of his son totaling $23,000. To cover up the transactions, there was a scheme to portray an $18,000 bribe from Florida lobbyist Herbert Vederman as payment for a car sale, said US Attorney Zane Memeger. (Read more congressman stories.)