Chaka Fattah (né Arthur Davenport), the Democratic congressman who represents part of Philadelphia and its environs, has never been challenged in a primary election. Since he joined the House in 1995, he has never garnered less than 86 percent of the vote in his impregnable district.
Fattah’s modus operandi on the job has been to spread around as much money as possible. Quite a bit of it has gone to education (and, The Scrapbook expects, ultimately to teachers’ unions), particularly through Philadelphia’s CORE program ($27 million) and the federal GEAR UP program ($4.5 billion). Other pet projects of his include: NOAA’s educational program ($32 million), federal funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters ($78 million), the Manufacturing Extension Program ($128 million), and various STEM-related programs ($266 million), among others.
All that money can make some very powerful friends, willing to do favors in return. Last year, the Philadelphia Daily News found that “between 2001 and 2012, nonprofits founded or supported by the Philadelphia congressman have paid out at least $5.8 million to his associates, including political operatives, ex-staffers and their relatives.”
Fattah has had access to such sums through his plum committee assignments. As ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, science, and related agencies, Fattah has considerable influence over what money goes where.
Ironically, some of the money he helped allocate went to the Justice Department, which was disinclined, apparently, to return the favor, indicting him on 29 counts of racketeering, bribery, mail fraud, and other crimes last week.
If something was amiss, as federal prosecutors allege, it probably shouldn’t have taken this long to figure out, considering that the (alleged) crimes date back to 2007. Still, The Scrapbook is hopeful the high-profile indictment of a notably free spender might, just might, make it marginally easier to trim federal spending.