Aug. 6 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Last week, Congressman Chaka Fattah was charged with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, bank fraud, money laundering and falsification of records. As I read the 29-count indictment, I thought the ancestors must be rolling over in their graves. The struggle for voting rights was about empowering African Americans to vote for candidates who would represent their interests.
Fifty years after Bloody Sunday, we have an entitled political class that is more interested in advancing their personal interests, and that of their family and friends.
In a Fox29 man-on-the-street interview, a constituent said it best:
He’s [Fattah] supposed to be bringing us up, not taking from us.
And that’s precisely what Fattah allegedly did. Co-conspirator Herbert Vederman allegedly sponsored Fattah’s live-in au pair.
A nonprofit run by a Fattah crony received a $1 million grant from NASA to support a STEM program for members of underrepresented groups. The crony, now co-conspirator, allegedly used some of the funds to repay a political loan.
This scheme should take the steam out of those who are quick to holler that black elected officials are harassed. If your hand is not in the cookie jar, you don’t have to worry about unfair scrutiny.
The allegation that he is the legislative equivalent of a capo didn't seem to impress Fattah, who has been under investigation long enough to repeatedly seek and win reelection regardless. While glibly allowing that the indictment is more significant than "Deflategate" - an airy scandal involving footballs - Fattah answered a disturbingly detailed 29-count indictment by reiterating a general denial and vowing to "try not to have it be a distraction."
In fact, the charges are so serious as to render Fattah's service a distraction. Even if he hasn't serially abused his office, as the charges suggest, he will be a busy defendant. As neither is compatible with his continued service, he should step down.
Such grave allegations, along with the pleas that preceded them, are a blot on what seemed to be a distinguished political career, and the latest in a long line for Philadelphia Democrats. Fattah is entitled to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. But he is not entitled to his office.
If Fattah doesn’t resign, his trial may a “distraction” for Democrats when they convene in this notoriously “corrupt and content” city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.