It’s hard not to sympathize with G.K. Chesterton’s observation, “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.” Perhaps hanging is a bit harsh for our more genteel era but it is frustrating when political corruption abounds and no one but the taxpayers suffers for it. So it’s hard not to cheer when an elected criminal gets his comeuppance, like today.
A federal judge sentenced former Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah to 10 years in prison for racketeering, money laundering, and fraud—in short, for being Democrat.
Earlier this year, Fattah, 60, was convicted of misspending government grants and charity money to fund his campaign and personal expenses, even as he and his TV anchor wife earned more than $500,000 a year.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle called the Philadelphia Democrat’s crimes “astonishing” given that he and his wife had an annual income that put them at or near the “top 1 percent.”
Fattah spent two decades in Congress before losing the primary this year.
Fattah’s statement on his conviction is exactly what you would expect from a corrupt politician.
“I’ve helped tens of millions of people,” Fattah said. “(That) has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury.”
Note the absence of the word “guilty” and his use of a paralipsis to hang the alleged good he did on the opposite side of the scale from his crimes. The spin is sickening. And the judge is correct; Fattah’s crimes are pretty astonishing. It is almost hard to comprehend the sense of entitlement required to do what he did.
A jury this year found that Fattah took an illegal $1 million loan from a wealthy friend to prop up his failed 2007 campaign for Philadelphia mayor. He then repaid some of it with federal grant money from NASA that he had steered to an education nonprofit run by loyal former staffers.
The nonprofit efforts — including a NASA-funded mobile science classroom emblazoned with Fattah’s name that roamed Philadelphia during the mayoral campaign — helped promote Fattah’s political career, prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.
Who does he think he is? Hillary Clinton? Nothing is quite so maddening as powerful people who act as if they are above the law. But wait, it gets worse.
Fattah used $23,000 in nonprofit funds to repay his son’s college loans and took an $18,000 bribe to try to help a friend become an ambassador. He even lobbied President Barack Obama on the friend’s behalf, to no avail. Fattah and his wife used the $18,000 for a down payment on a Poconos vacation home. They told authorities the money covered the friend’s purchase of a Porsche owned by Fattah’s wife, but the Porsche never left their garage.
He took the bribe and failed to deliver. Crooked and ineffective. That’s beautiful.
Fraud actually appears to be the Fattah family business; his son is in jail for a related fraud case and Fattah’s wife was a television journalist with an NBC affiliate.
His son, Chaka Fattah Jr. is serving a five-year prison term in an overlapping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr., who never finished college, was convicted of using fraudulently obtained business loans to fund his jet-set lifestyle.
Fattah, who earned $174,000 as a congressman, is married to longtime Philadelphia news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. They have two school-age children. Chenault-Fattah, who is also a lawyer, spent 25 years with WCAU-TV before she resigned after the indictment named her a participant in the bribery scheme.
Most crimes like those of Chaka Fattah go unpunished. Many of them get rewarded in fact. So, savor the moment with the spirit of Chesterton.