If you thought things couldn’t get any worse for convicted former Congressman Chaka Fattah – who’s currently staring down a possible 21-year prison sentence – well, think again.
The Federal Elections Commission has sent a letter to Chaka Fattah’s old campaign committee on Tuesday ordering the amendment or return of some $29,000 in “excessive, prohibited and impermissible” donations.
The letter, sent from the FEC’s auditing division, flags a number of issues with the committee’s last filing, in early July.
The bulk of violations revolve around $26,450 marked for Fattah’s use in the general election from allies like state Sen. Vince Hughes, parking magnate Joe Zuritsky and Girard College President Clay Armbrister.
The problem is that Fattah never stood in the general election – he lost the April primary to Evans.
“Any contribution received for the general election must be returned to the donors or redesignated to the primary if your committee has net debts outstanding for the primary,” states the FEC notice.
But during its last filing, Fattah for Congress listed a little over $1,800 in debts apparently left over from his failed primary run. With just $7,500 listed in the committee’s accounts in early July, it was unclear how the full sum could be refunded.
Other donations totaling $2,500 were flagged as emanating from corporations or organizations that are not registered with the FEC.
Fattah’s campaign accepted one donation from the “Universal Masonic Brotherhood, Inc.,” a nonprofit corporation registered in Florida that appears to support a rogue offshoot of the Freemasons. Two other contributions came from the campaign funds of Philadelphia City Council members Cindy Bass and Blondell Reynolds Brown, neither of which was registered with the FEC.
The former congressman has publicly struggled with his finances as his costly federal trial strained his bank account. Toward the end, Fattah had resorted to legal-aid fundraisers to cover his debts and the dubious use of his franking privileges to distribute pseudo-campaign mailers to fend off Evans’ challenge.
Julia Queen, a spokesperson for the FEC, said it was up to the committee and auditors to negotiate repayment or redesignation of the outstanding contributions. Queen couldn’t say what would happen if the committee’s remaining funds were insufficient to cover a refund, but the FEC notice threatens a civil penalty if a response from committee treasurer Roger Jackson, Jr. is not received by early January.