Update: Fattah was convicted this week of racketeering, and he announced Thursday that he will step down from Congress. He had been planning to stay put until October, but given his conviction, he was facing expulsion.
The below post, which was written after his July indictment, explains how we get here.
The big news is already out there. The U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Pennsylvania on Wednesday announced the indictment of Rep. Chaka Fattah Sr., a Democrat whose congressional district includes Philadelphia, along with four other people with connections to his political career and his 2007 mayoral campaign.
Talk of an investigation into the 11-term congressman's activities and possible indictments has been out there for some time. So we've compiled this handy summary of the allegations and events that lead to the charges.
Of course, it's important to say up-front that the following comes from the federal indictment detailing the case against Fattah and others, as well as published news reports. Fattah, 58, faces 29 charges ranging from bribery and money laundering to falsification of records, and multiple counts of bank fraud. Indicted along with him were Bonnie Bowser, 59, a long-time Fattah aide and chief of staff in Fattah's district office; Karen Nicholas, 57, Fattah's one-time director of constituent services; Herbert Vederman, 69, a lobbyist; and businessman Robert Brand, 69.
With that out of the way, let's review a few events.
1. The campaign
In 2006, Fattah launched a bid to become Philadelphia's mayor. The city's then-mayor had bumped into the the city's term limits, so the race attracted a lot of candidates. Fattah was one of two members of Congress in the race.
The long-serving congressman was no underdog, but he wan't the front-runner either: In December 2006, Fattah drew the ire of local police unions when he backed the idea of a new trial for a Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man convicted of killing a police officer in the early 1980s but referred to by some as a political prisoner because he was a former member of the Black Panther Party and a radio journalist. Police union officials advised officers not to vote for Fattah because of this. (Jamal has continued to profess his innocence, and in 2011, after 30 years on Death Row, he saw his death sentence rescinded because of questions about his trial and evidence presented during it.)
2) A loss -- and early allegations
Like any candidate, Fattah worked to raise campaign cash and in doing so, often hit up the wealthy. Local reports frequently described Fattah's as a deep-pocketed campaign. And by February 2007, reporters had found evidence that Fattah's efforts may have violated local campaign-finance rules.
Whatever the campaign might have done, though, it wasn't enough. In May 2007, Philadelphia City Council Member Michael Nutter beat Fattah in the Democratic primary and eventually became mayor.
In January 2014, a U.S. Justice Department audit uncovered that nearly half of the $771,000 in federal funds a Philadelphia nonprofit group had received through earmarks secured by Fattah went to the Philadelphia Safety Net. That nonprofit group had just one staff member -- a man who had once been a part of Fattah's congressional staff.
A few months later, Fattah told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he thought federal investigators were behaving "improperly" and "illegally."
3) Time passes, and more troubles
After flying below the radar for a few years, the U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia forced Fattah to turn over property tax records and utility bills connected to his home. Fattah's lawyer told reporters that the subpoenas were connected to an investigation into Fattah that had begun around 2007.
Then, in March 2014, in keeping with House rules, Fattah had to inform Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that federal prosecutors had demanded documents from his congressional office.
4) Junior's problems
In May 2014, lawyers for the government asked a federal court to throw out a $10 million suit Chaka Fattah Jr. filed against the IRS, FBI, U.S. Justice Department and the United States. The younger Fattah claimed that federal officials had tipped off the media about a 2012 raid on his home. When the reporters waiting outside snapped pictures of the raid, Fattah Jr. claimed, they deeply damaged his reputation and ability to earn money.
In August 2014, Fattah Jr. was indicted on federal bank fraud, tax and theft charges. The younger Fattah was accused of stealing federal funds for city schools and using business loans to pay off personal expenses, including more than $30,000 in gambling debts.
5) A gathering storm
In November 2014, despite all the news about the younger and the elder Fattah, the congressman "sailed to reelection," securing his 11th term with more than 80 percent of the vote and avoiding any serious primary challenge. The next day, a former chief strategist to Fattah during Fattah's failed 2007 mayoral bid, Richard Naylor, pleaded guilty to concealing the misuse of more than $600,000 in campaign and federal funds.
That same month, Tom Lindenfeld, a Washington, D.C.-based political consultant who had also worked on Fattah's mayoral campaign, faced his own federal charges. Lindenfeld has worked for a number of Democrats in federal and local races. At the time, court documents in the case against Lendenfeld also referred to an unnamed public official widely believed to be Fattah. Fattah denied any wrong doing at the time. Lindenfeld later pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit fraud.
By September 2014, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist was willing to say it: There was so much smoke surrounding Fattah, the columnist wrote, that a fire seemed likely to break out at any moment.
Naylor told a federal court he conspired with someone identified only as "Elected Official A." Naylor also said that some of the money had been used to repay student loans for Elected Official A's son.
In January, federal prosecutors asked a three-judge panel to force Google to hand over seven years worth of e-mail sent and received from a personal account belonging to an elected official identified only by the pseudonym, "Congressman Smith." The court documents even asked for access to John.Smith@gmail.com's account. But the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that court documents made it clear: The feds were after Fattah's personal e-mails.
6) The indictment
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors brought a 29-count indictment against Fattah, alleging schemes to repay campaign donations, transfer campaign funds and federal dollars to individuals to whom he owed campaign-related debts or pay his son's student loans and accept cash and other gifts in exchange for advancing a lobbyist's campaign to become a U.S. ambassador.