Follow the Money: Council Member Settles Ethics Charges

Ah, Philadelphia, land of widespread civic corruption. Today’s example is Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who has admitted improperly using her campaign cash to pay off a loan from the son of Congressman Chaka Fattah, who himself has been under investigation for possible improper acts. As WHYY’s Dave Davies notes, the issues here “go way beyond sloppy bookkeeping and late report filings. They raise real questions of integrity.”

According to the settlement, the councilwoman was in financial difficulty in 2010 because her estranged husband wasn’t making mortgage payments. So Reynolds Brown accepted a $3,300 loan from Chaka Fattah Jr., son of the Philadelphia congressman who’s a longtime ally of Reynolds Brown.

She repaid that loan with campaign dollars, a transaction disguised as a fictitious expenditure to a printing company. Reynolds Brown knows knows better than to tap campaign funds for personal use, and because Fattah Jr. is associated with a for-profit charter school funded by the Philadelphia School District, whose budget Reynolds Brown votes on, the loan amounted to a prohibited gift.

There’s much, much more in the settlement including, dozens of transactions, many in cash, that her campaign fund never reported.

Brown had been mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate in 2015. She settled the charges with the Ethics Board by agreeing to pay a record $48,000 fine. [Newsworks]