by Larry Miller
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
Public reaction to the indictment of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, an 11-term Philadelphia congressman has been harsh, even Friday in West Philadelphia where he was born and raised.
“Well I have to say I’m disappointed,” said Wayne Hall, 69. “We’d like to be able to put our trust in our elected officials and then something like this happens. I’m very disappointed but as a Christian I hope he’s going to be okay. But I’m disappointed because he seems to be a good guy and he’s done a lot for the city.”
According to federal prosecutors, the case against the long-serving congressman begins with his 2007 mayoral campaign. Fattah and associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy patron and allegedly disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company.
Fattah allegedly returned $400,000 to the donor after his campaign failed – money that the campaign had not used, and arranged for Educational Advancement Alliance, a non-profit entity that he founded and controlled, to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies, including one run by Robert Brand, a co-defendant in the indictment. To conceal the contribution and repayment scheme, the defendants and others allegedly created sham contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.
“Why indict a congressman that wants a better city?” West Philadelphia resident Derrick Ross, 27 asked. “I looked at Chaka Fattah as a hero and never would I have thought he was the Peter Pan of Philadelphia. So-called stealing and accepting funds that were meant to be in our neighborhoods and communities? Keeping proceeds for himself and his family? Yes there are powerful people that steal money and lives but his actions prove he’s not on the side of the people, more so the side of his people. It’s despicable.”
Ross wasn’t alone in his view of Fattah.
“Given the serious charges that have been filed against Rep. Fattah, it would be difficult to imagine that he would be able to both represent himself and his district,” said attorney Sean Stevens, who lives in Fattah’s congressional district.
Richard Brooks, 52, said he didn’t know too much about the Fattah investigation since he just heard about it. But he too said it was disappointing news.
“We want to be able to trust our elected officials,” Brooks said. “This was very disappointing news.”
Educator and community activist Maisha Ongoza also said she was disappointed by the news of Fattah’s indictment but not surprised. If the case goes to trial and he is found guilty, she said it would diminish the Fattah family’s legacy of service.
“It is disappointing but not surprising to hear that politicians do things to raise money for campaigns or enhance their lifestyles,” she said. “I also don’t believe being raised in a socially active family id a guarantee the children will have the same values and ethics. The Fattah family, in particular Mother Falaka, is a community icon for us.
“Unfortunately sometimes the children if icons have a sense of entitlement. They believe the legacy of their family should accrue them wealth and other benefits, which I think was the case for Chaka Jr. Chaka Sr. had greater political ambitions that required a lot of money to achieve. People come up with creative ways to raise it, knowing some of the practices are borderline or clearly unethical. They take those risks. All risks have consequences.”
Then she added, “He now must face them. If he’s found guilty it would diminish the esteem family legacy of service. It is not anything I look forward to reading or see unfold. The needs of our people are great and to find out one who assisted many is now under indictment is a political tragedy to be felt for years.”