Probe shifts to Philadel­phia politi­cian

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - MARYCLAIRE DALE

PHILADEL­PHIA — Union car­pen­ter Bob Brady has spent 30 years run­ning Philadel­phia’s Demo­cratic ma­chine, and 20 years in Congress, watch­ing a string of lo­cal party lead­ers go to prison.

Brady’s camp gave a city judge who chal­lenged him in the 2012 pri­mary $90,000 to quit the race, ac­cord­ing to a Jus­tice Depart­ment memo, un­sealed Wed­nes­day af­ter the judge’s cam­paign aide pleaded guilty to break­ing cam­paign fi­nance laws. And Brady tried to “in­flu­ence” a wit­ness in the case, ac­cord­ing to prose­cu­tors, who said they filed the case un­der seal for fear he would “cor­rupt(ly)” pres­sure the aide not to co­op­er­ate.

Cor­rup­tion cases large and small have dogged Philadel­phia Democrats dur­ing Brady’s ten­ure as party boss.

Eleven-term Con­gress­man Chaka Fat­tah and his son are both in fed­eral prison for im­prop­erly en­rich­ing them­selves with pub­lic or pri­vate funds. Two-term Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Williams awaits sen­tenc­ing for liv­ing be­yond his means with help from friends seek­ing fa­vors.

For­mer State­house power­bro­ker Vin­cent Fumo served more than four years in prison for us­ing state se­nate funds or — in his words — “OPM,” or “other peo­ple’s money,” to ren­o­vate his man­sion, com­man­deer mu­seum yachts and to spy on his ex-wife. By one press ac­count, more than 30 Philadel­phia Democrats have been in­ves­ti­gated since 2000.

Brady’s lawyer bris­tles at talk his client should be tarred by the lapses. Brady is “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t” when it comes to manag­ing the slate of can­di­dates, lawyer James Eisen­hower said.

“If he could say who could run, they’d say he’s an old-fash­ioned party boss. With a mod­ern party boss … can­di­dates run and win in­de­pen­dent of the party chair. Then they say he’s not ex­er­cis­ing enough over­sight,” Eisen­hower said.

He de­nies that Brady tried to ob­struct the FBI probe of the money Brady’s cam­paign gave Judge Jim­mie Moore in 2012, not­ing that can­di­dates rou­tinely swal­low up the cam­paign debt of van­quished foes for the sake of party unity.

“Judge Moore de­cided to get out of the race, based on his own cal­cu­la­tion that he couldn’t win. He did ask the con­gress­man if he could re­lieve some of his cam­paign debt,” Eisen­hower said. “Con­gress­man Brady has done noth­ing wrong here.”

Brady had a nearly $500,000 war chest, and Moore only a few thou­sand dol­lars, when Moore met with Brady in Fe­bru­ary 2012 and agreed to step aside. So Brady bought some of Moore’s cam­paign as­sets — not the of­fice fur­ni­ture, but a year-old poll that in­cluded data on Brady’s po­ten­tial strengths and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

Prose­cu­tors say the money paid not for a stale poll, but for Moore to step aside. They say Moore’s cam­paign aide and then-fi­ance, Car­olyn Ca­vaness, set up a sham com­pany to re­ceive the money af­ter it was fun­neled through two po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants. She also got a job with Brady.

Ca­vaness now faces up to five years in prison af­ter plead­ing guilty to con­ceal­ing the pay­ments on Moore’s cam­paign fi­nance re­ports. She was not charged with con­spir­acy, and no one else has been charged. But Moore, at least, has signed a “tolling agree­ment” that waives the five-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions, should it be an is­sue for prose­cu­tors — un­til at least Nov. 30, his lawyer said. Eisen­hower wouldn’t say if Brady signed one.

Lawyer Jef­frey Miller be­lieves that Moore, who is black, had a real shot at chal­leng­ing Brady in the mostly black dis­trict if not for his fi­nances. He rep­re­sents Moore, who is now in his late 60s and back on the bench.

“If [Brady] wasn’t con­cerned, then he never would have gen­er­ated $90,000 and paid Jim­mie’s cam­paign bills off,” Miller said. “The real ques­tion is, does the trans­fer of funds con­sti­tute a crime?”

A lawyer for Ca­vaness de­clined com­ment.

A for­mer Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion lawyer said it’s le­gal to hold a fundraiser for a failed ri­val, but not to pay them to drop out.

“You wouldn’t cre­ate a shell cor­po­ra­tion and hide it if you thought it was le­gal,” said Adav Noti, se­nior di­rec­tor of the non­par­ti­san Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter.

Ori Feibush, a de­vel­oper who bucked city Democrats by un­suc­cess­fully chal­leng­ing an in­cum­bent coun­cil­man in 2013, said the case shows how hard it is to take on the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. Few peo­ple even try in Philadel­phia, where Democrats have a 7-to-1 mo­nop­oly and con­tested pri­maries are rare.

Feibush, 33, said Brady works hard “to make sure that no­body’s fight­ing” and “to limit or elim­i­nate com­pe­ti­tion.”

“The [party] men­tal­ity, it’s not ‘com­pe­ti­tion is healthy.’ It’s ‘this is my seat and how dare you run against me,’” Feibush said. “It’s mad­den­ing, but that is the en­vi­ron­ment in Philadel­phia.”

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