Monday, May 12, 2008


"Chaka Fattah is to corruption something like Typhoid Mary was to typhoid." (Anonymous)

This will be the subject of Tuesday's column on Chaka Fattah, a Democratic congressman from Philadelphia. He's little more than an errand boy and "wheel-greaser" for super-rich firms and boss-dominated unions. In terms of corruption, he's better than Howard Jefferson -- the congressman with $90,000 in cool cash in his freezer -- but just barely. He may just be the worst congressman in America.

Among Fattah's big contributors this year is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the teacher's union, which doled out $5,000 to Fattah's waiting hand. Of course, Philadelphia has some of the worst schools this side of Bangladesh. Did the AFT hand him the five grand for keeping his mouth shut? It certainly wasn't for improving the schools, which get worse every term he's in Congress.

Apparently, Fattah is backing for President one Barack Obama, whose slogan is "Change You Can Believe In." With Fattah now completing his seventh undistinguished term in Congress, he stands for "Change That Will Never Happen." A few more terms with Fattah and Philly may no longer even qualify as a city.

On crime, in which Philly is a national "leader," Congressman Fattah is apparently against it. But if so, what was he doing acting as a cheerleader for convicted cop-killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the man who murdered Police Officer Daniel Faulkner? The Philly murder rate is on pace to soon surpass that of New York City, which is five times the size of The City of Brotherly Love.

There is a serious candidate running this year against Fattah. His name is Michael (Mike) Livingston, and he's a tax expert and Rutgers University law professor. Since Fattah famously refused to release his income tax returns when he ran his wildly unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of Philly, I am suggesting that he perhaps engage the services of Professor Livingston.

On specifics about highly questionable behavior by Rep. Fattah: When he finds a rule he doesn't like, he violates it. Many of Fattah's ethical lapses trace back to 2006 and 2007 when, after just being elected to Congress, he unexpectedly announced he would run for Mayor of Philadelphia.

Consider the following material from Congresspedia:

"Fattah opposed Philadelphia's recently implemented limits on campaign contributions during his run for mayor. He, along with [fellow Philadelphia congressman] Brady, contended that they were unfair, for they curb one’s ability to fundraise, but allow individuals to spend unlimited funds on their own campaigns.[7]

"Fattah challenged the law in court, but it was upheld on April 2, 2007. He then appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, asking it to expedite its decision. [8]
Ultimately, the contribution limits were upheld. [10]

On Fattah's refusal to release his income tax returns, Congresspedia says:

"Fattah was widely criticized for refusing to release his income tax returns; a decision he claimed was motivated by the fact that his wife (with whom he filed jointly) was a high-profile local news anchorwoman (Renee Chenault-Fattah) and wished to not release her salary.[9]

Congresspedia continues: "In April 2007, Fattah admitted to using $36,767 from his mayoral exploratory committee to fund his campaign; thus violating Philadelphia campaign finance law. Fattah said he would reimburse the exploratory committee, and eventually the money would go back to the individual donors. The expenses include:

$7,598 for his Web site;
$11,008.88 for his mayoral announcement event;
$14,645.46 for other announcement expenses, videos and photos;
$3,515 for office expenses.[10]"

By the way, Fattah's wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah, reportedly makes an annual salary in the $600,000 range. Which, as they say in Philly, is a nice chunk of change. (More about Fattah's arrangements with the TV station in coming days and weeks.)

A fascinating fact about Fattah's 2008 campaign is contained in the mandatory reports he's filed with the Federal Election Commission (and available on

In his last report (filed April 2, 2008) Fattah's report shows he hasn't exactly raised a princely sum in this election cycle. Amount raised is under 140,00. Here's how it reads on OpenSecrets: Chaka Fattah (D) * Raised: $129,391 Spent: $442,470 Cash on Hand: $139,054.

Let's see: he's rasied $129,000, plus change. But he's spent $442,470! Say what!!!

In one sense, all this means is that he had a lot of money from past campaigns lying around. But where on earth did he spend a sum of money that now probably exceeds a half-million dollars? It's not exactly as his opponent (Republican Michael Livingston) were Barack Obama.

When you find a candidate whose early spending (and the election is a long way off) is huge, it's invariably going to one place: to pay off supporters. Here's how it works: big donors (like the AFT, the Trial Lawyers, and the gargantuan Philly law firms) give Fattah big contributions for services rendered. In turn, Fattah (or his congressional buddy John Murtha) funnel the cash to their supporters. "It goeth in one door and cometh out the other."

In Philadelphia politics, a lot of money traditionally goes to "precinct organizers," who are glorified vote buyers. It's called either "walking around money" or "street money." In the 2006 gubernatorial election, Ed Rendell gave out an average of $7,000 cash money IN EVERY PHILLY PRECINCT. (Source: The Almanac of American Politics (2008), p. 1378. The Pennsylvania media "forgot" to tell us this relevant fact.

But isn't that against the law? Not if you're as skillful as someone like Fattah. How much Chaka gives out in the precincts is not clear yet. Perhaps he'll volunteer the information? And perhaps pigs can fly?

In the coming weeks and months, you're going to read a lot here about Cong. Fattah's spending habits. I hope (against hope?) that the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Bulletin, and other news outlets will do some digging on their own. In the immortal words of Watergate's "Deep Throat": "follow the money."

I don't know for certain if Rep. Fattah deserves to have his own special "perp walk," but if he does, you'll probably read it here first.

Michael Livingston is the Republican candidate against "the human landfill," Chaka Fattah. He is the first serious opponent Fattah has faced, and he knows -- in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo -- that Chaka "has a heap of 'splaining to do." Go get him, Michael!

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