Guilty Plea Widens Scope of Political Corruption in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A former campaign aide pleaded guilty to submitting false Federal Election Commission filings to conceal a $90,000 payout from Pennsylvania’s longest-serving Democratic congressman to persuade her own candidate — a former municipal judge — to drop out of the race.

Carolyn Cavaness pleaded to a federal information filed under seal on June 27. She was a campaign aide for former Philadelphia Municipal Judge Jimmie Moore in her brief 2012 primary run against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

Brady has represented the First Congressional District in Philadelphia since 1998. He is a powerful power broker in the city, having been chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party since 1986, and is the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on House Administration.

Cavaness, 34, of Ardmore, is pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The information says she “conspired to conceal from the FEC three payments totaling $90,000 from the campaign committee of Candidate A to Candidate B to be used in paying Candidate B’s campaign debts in exchange for Candidate B’s agreement to withdraw from the race.”

Neither Brady nor Moore have been charged with a crime, nor are they named in the information, but their identities were widely reported in Philadelphia news outlets Tuesday, citing a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

The money was routed through two political consultants, “who created false invoices to generate a paper trail intended to justify the payments from Candidate A’s campaign committee,” according to the U.S. attorney’s statement.

The guilty plea indicates that the FBI is not done with a long-running investigation that sent Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah to prison last year on 23 charges of corruption. He resigned and is serving 10 years in federal prison. Fattah was an 11-term congressman from Pennsylvania’s Second District, which included parts of Philadelphia.

In late June this year, District Attorney R. Seth Williams resigned and pleaded guilty to taking bribes. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond immediately had Williams handcuffed in court and hauled off to prison, saying he was “appalled by the evidence I have heard” about the city’s top law enforcement officer.

Cavaness could not be reached for comment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Congressman Brady referred questions to his longtime political consultant Ken Smukler. “You have to talk to Kenny,” Brady told the Inquirer. “They did all that. That’s five years ago. I don’t remember none of that. … Whatever they did, I don’t know.”

Cavaness pleaded guilty in court Friday. The Inquirer reported that prosecutors did not report the plea until Tuesday because they worried that Brady or his agents would try to influence other people involved in the investigation.

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