US senator testifies at congressman's corruption trial

AP News
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Posted: May 26, 2016 3:46 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania testified for the prosecution Thursday in the trial of a congressman accused of trying to land an ambassadorship for a friend in exchange for a bribe.

Casey said he received a letter from Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah Sr. after President Barack Obama took office, asking that lobbyist Herbert Vederman be considered for the vaunted post.

"The request was for an ambassadorship," Casey said. "You don't get many of those."

Casey said he did not promote the bid to the White House. Vederman, a one-time Casey donor, later seemed frustrated when nothing came of it, Casey said.

Federal prosecutors accuse Fattah of taking bribes from Vederman to resolve financial problems, largely stemming from a failed 2007 bid for Philadelphia mayor. Fattah, an 11-term Philadelphia Democrat, is also accused of misusing federal grants and nonprofit funds. He denies wrongdoing.

Vederman, a former deputy mayor, is also on trial along with three other Fattah associates who have pleaded not guilty.

Casey said he got about 200 job requests when Obama took office in 2009, perhaps because he had been an early supporter of the Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois.

The indictment alleges that Fattah buttonholed the president about Vederman when he got the chance.

The congressman's trial began May 16 and is expected to last another month. Fattah lost the April primary for re-election. His son, Chaka Fattah Jr., is serving a five-year prison term after being convicted in a related case.

Earlier this week, a Drexel University official told jurors that the son ended up $30,000 in arrears on his tuition bill before leaving without a degree. His father is accused of later steering $22,000 in campaign funds to pay down the debt.

Also this week, longtime Fattah campaign consultant Gregory Naylor, who has pleaded guilty in the case, told jurors that he helped falsify campaign finance reports to help cover an illegal $1 million campaign loan to Fattah's 2007 race.

Naylor described how he distributed $200,000 from the loan on Election Day to try to get out the vote. Both Naylor and a second Fattah consultant who has pleaded guilty in the case, Thomas Lindenfeld, await sentencing.