The indictment alleges racketeering, bribery and a wide ranging RICO conspiracy that, according to the government, involved four other people: Herbert Vederman, Robert Brand, Karen Nicholas and Bonnie Bowser. The federal case appears to focus on activity that goes back almost a decade.
Fattah has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has specifically emphasized his political successes and those he’s helped during his time in Congress. He has also questioned the work of prosecutors in past cases involving members of Congress who were indicted and later exonerated including the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and former Rep. Floyd Flake (D-NY).
As the most senior Black member of House Appropriations, Fattah is the most powerful African American member of Congress and has had a say in the allocation of billions in federal spending for years. The site for his legal defense makes reference to his work. The government’s case against Rep. Fattah is expected to begin after a primary in April 2016 and though he has opponents, Fattah is expected to win.
“The Preservation of Public Service Legal Trust will ensure that I have the best people and resources necessary to defend my name and my good works in Congress on behalf of the citizens of the Second Congressional District,” the new site reads. A link for donations to Fattah for Congress 2016 is alongside the defense fund info.
Fattah is the sponsor of GEAR UP, a college prep program to assist disadvantaged middle school students prepare for college. GEAR UP was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. Fattah has also been focused on mentoring and for the study of neuroscience.
Since the July 29 charges were announced, some have argued the government’s case will be an “uphill battle.” When one hears words such as “racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and fraud” a clear smoking gun is assumed.
“I understand the magnitude of the charges but, as they say in the South, even a thin pancake has two sides” noted attorney Stan Brand in an interview with Law360 the day after the charges were announced.
The government’s record regarding how they proceed on investigating members of Congress is mixed with regard to which cases they chose to prosecute or drop.
In recent years, several members of Congress, including three from Pennsylvania, have been the subject of a federal investigations but were not charged. They included former Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-WV), the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), former Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), former Reps. Kurt Weldon (D-PA), Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Paul Kanjorski (D-PA).
Federal prosecutors did charge former Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), William Jefferson (D-LA), (who is now serving the longest sentence handed down to any member of Congress in U.S. history), Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Bob Ney (R-OH), Frank Ballance (D-NC), Jim Traficant (D-OH) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).