Fattah in Hot Seat After Aide’s Guilty Plea

The congressman is mum — and so are feds — but media and political rivals are closing in.

Chaka Fattah

Chaka Fattah isn’t talking. (Though he is tweeting.) The feds aren’t either. But the media and the congressman’s political rivals are closing in.

His longtime aide Gregory Naylor pleaded guilty this week to a scheme to obtain an illegal loan for a 2007 mayoral campaign — the candidate is identified in court documents only as “Elected Official A” — then pay it back with federal grant money. Federal prosecutors haven’t identified the candidate, but that hasn’t stopped Philadelphia media from making the link.

It appears Dave Davies at WHYY was the first to make the straight assertion, writing on Wednesday: “From the actions attributed to him in the memo, Elected Official A can only be Congeressman Fattah (a federal official who ran for mayor in 2007 and sued to try and overturn the city’s campaign finance limits).”

The rest of the media apparently concurs with that conclusion, and is proceeding accordingly.

The Daily News today says Albert Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, may be a key figure in the case.

Naylor pleaded to concealing an illegal $1 million loan to the campaign. The Daily News says: “A source familiar with the investigation said yesterday the man who made that loan — identified as ‘Person D’ in federal documents — is believed to be Albert ‘Al’ Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, the giant student loan financing corporation.”

The paper additionally notes: “Lord was part of a small group of deep-pocketed donors who put up $615,000 in 2006 for an ‘exploratory committee’ that preceded Fattah’s run for mayor in 2007. Lord donated $100,000.”

Lord declined comment to the paper, as did his son.

The Inquirer notes congressman Fattah’s silence:

The normally outspoken congressman, who has previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with the federal investigation that ensnared his aide, was suddenly mum.

Fattah’s spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday, as did his lawyer, Luther E. Weaver 3d, who said he did not expect the congressman or his staff to have anything to say about the ongoing probe any time soon.

Meanwhile, Fattah’s Twitter and Facebook accounts continued with their usual churn of news releases and announcements of new projects and grants, with nary a nod to the scandal unfolding within his inner circle.

One person who isn’t quiet? Armond James, Fattah’s Republican opponent in the November Congressional election. Newsworks reports:

Fattah has not been charged with a crime, but his Republican opponent Armond James says since the revelation, his campaign is suddenly drawing interest.

“Now more people are contacting us and they want to help,” James said. “We’re having a couple of fund-raisers in the next few weeks. I just had one last week and we’re excited about the opportunity to push our ideas out there, because we need finances to help us get our message out.”

Armond teaches at an alternative public high school in Philadelphia. He has only about $500 in his campaign war chest. In contrast, Fattah spent about $400,000 between January and the end of June from his campaign account.

And the news has had ripple effects beyond Philadelphia. Muriel Bowser, a candidate for mayor in Washington D.C., has cut ties with political consultant Tom Lindenfeld, a Fattah consultant during the 2007 race. Washington City Paper‘s “Loose Lips” column reports:

But an unnamed person resembling Lindenfeld has allegedly been up to some much less savory campaigning in Philadelphia, according to documents recently filed in federal court. The pseudonymous “Person B” — described by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News as Lindenfeld — stands accused in an elaborate scheme to secure an illegal mayoral campaign loan, then pay it back with federal grant money.

Bowser says she’s cut ties with Lindenfeld. “Tom is well-known for working on national and local elections, including as a consultant on my council races and in my most recent primary campaign,” Bowser says in a statement emailed to LL. “I’m quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia today. I have the highest expectations of transparency from my campaign team; Tom no longer has a role on the campaign. We are entirely focused on working together with D.C. residents on the big issues that will shape our collective future.”

A spokesperson for Congressman Fattah was not immediately available for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s office said it did not name the elected official in the filings because “We do not name people who are not charged.”

Below, the Federal Information and Plea Memo for Gregory Naylor.