Rep. Chaka Fattah addresses the Alliance for Space Development press conference on February 25, 2015. Video source: National Space Society YouTube channel.
One of the few supportive voices in Congress for NewSpace faces criminal charges.
WPVI-TV Channel 6 in Philadelphia reports that Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) “was indicted Wednesday in a racketeering case stemming from the alleged misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, charitable and campaign funds after his failed 2007 run for mayor.”
The 11th-term Democrat led a conspiracy that engaged in bribery, fraud, money laundering and other crimes, and netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal investigators said.
Prosecutors said the charges covered several schemes, including the use of federal grants and charitable contributions to Fattah's educational foundation to pay back $600,000 of a $1 million loan from a wealthy campaign supporter and arranging a federal grant in lieu of a $130,000 payment to a political consultant.
Four others are also charged in this case.
Rep. Fattah posted this statement on his web site:
This has been an eight-year effort by some in the Department of Justice to link my public service career to some form of wrongdoing. With today’s charges, this misguided campaign has now moved from speculation to specific allegations.
As I have previously stated, I have never participated in any illegal activity or misappropriation of taxpayer dollars as an elected official. For the last 21 years, I have represented the people of Philadelphia in Congress with honor and dignity, helping millions of families through my efforts focused on education, employment, mortgage relief, and health care. I will proudly continue to serve my constituents and look forward to helping millions more.
Per House rules and precedent, I have stepped aside from my role as Ranking Member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science.
This will not be a distraction from my service to the people that elected me, and I am confident that I will be cleared of these charges.
Fattah and fellow NewSpace advocate Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) co-hosted the February 25 media event in Washington, D.C. announcing the formation of the Alliance for Space Development. According to their web site, ASD “is dedicated to influencing space policy toward the goals of space development and settlement. The founding, executive organizations are the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation.”
Roll Call reports that Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) will replace Fattah as the Democrats' ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee. His district includes the NASA Ames Research Center. Rep. Honda faces his own ethics probe; emails “appeared to violate House rules regarding campaign activity by discussing contributors and fundraising efforts related to an official event.”
(Hat tip to Jeff Foust at Space News for the Roll Call reference.)
Rep. Fattah questions NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a March 4, 2015 hearing. Video source: Chaka Fattah YouTube channel.