The district includes portions of North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and West Philadelphia along with Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County.
On July 29, 2015, Fattah and a group of associates were indicted on federal charges related to their alleged roles in a racketeering and influence peddling conspiracy. He later lost the 2016 Democratic primary as well. He was convicted on 23 counts of racketeering, fraud, and other corruption charges on June 21, 2016 and resigned two days later. On December 12, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Until he went to federal prison in western Pennsylvania, Fattah lived all his life in Philadelphia, attending Overbrook High School and the Community College of Philadelphia. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1984, Fattah completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In May 1986, he received his master's degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government.
Fattah was the recipient of numerous honors and awards including 10 honorary doctorates and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Time Magazine named Fattah one of the 50 most promising leaders in the country.
His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother soon remarried to a man she met at a national conference on black power in 1968. Following this conference, his mother decided to change his name to Chaka Fattah, to acknowledge their African ethnicity.
His adoptive father, David Fattah, and mother, Falaka Fattah (born Frances Brown, also known as "Queen Mother" Falaka Fattah), are community activists in West Philadelphia, where they are building an "urban Boys' Town" through their organization, the House of Umoja. He has five brothers.
Fattah served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1983 to 1988, and as a State Senator from 1988 to 1994.
In 1987, Fattah founded the Graduate Opportunity Initiative Conference, an annual three-day informational and scholarship conference which aims to significantly increase the enrollment of under-represented graduate students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM fields). The conference was designed to encourage minority students’ interest in STEM graduate and professional schools.
In 1991, State Senator Fattah decided to run for Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district in the special election that was held after Democratic U.S. Congressman William Gray decided to resign. On November 5, 1991, Lucien Edward Blackwell won the election with a plurality of 39% of the vote defeating Fattah (28%), John F. White (28%), and Nadine Smith-Bulford (5%).
In 1994, Fattah decided to challenge Blackwell in the Democratic primary. He defeated the incumbent 58%-42%. He won the general election with 86% of the vote. After that, he was re-elected every two years with at least 86% of the vote. He was never challenged in the Democratic primary until 2016, when he lost to Dwight E. Evans.
Fattah represented the 2nd district in Pennsylvania, an overwhelmingly Democratic district, in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2016. Fattah endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008.
He is the architect of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.
In his first years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Fattah introduced and passed into law Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) an early college awareness program. Since its inception, more than $4 billion in federal funds have been distributed to assist 12 million students in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Fattah sponsored H.R. 4207, American Dream Accounts Act which would authorize the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants to support partnerships that provide financial support and preparation for low-income students as they plan for their college education. The bill is co-sponsored in the U. S. Senate by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. Specifically the legislation creates personal online accounts for students that monitor higher education readiness and includes a college savings account. The accounts follow students from school to school and through college. Parents can grant vested stakeholders (including counselors, teachers, coaches, mentors, and others) access to the account to update student information, monitor progress, and provide college preparatory support.
Fattah has introduced a few bills targeting the equity of resource allocation within and between school districts. In 2002, he introduced the "Student Bill of Rights", H.R. 2451. The measure calls for States to provide highly effective teachers, early childhood education, college prep curricula and equitable instructional resources to all students who attend public schools. Current law requires that schools within the same district provide comparable educational services; this bill would extend that basic protection to the State level by requiring comparability across school districts.
The ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act, H.R. 5071 – amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to requires school districts to equalize the real dollars spent among all schools within its jurisdiction – with the imperative to raise the resources allotted to schools in the poorest neighborhoods to meet those in well-off schools – before receiving federal aid.
Fattah introduced "Communities Committed to College", H.R. 1579. The legislation provides a 50% tax credit to donors who contribute to qualifying scholarship trusts that are recognized and registered with the Secretary of the Treasury.
He also wrote the legislation for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The tax credit assists any full-time college or university student or their families that claim the credit. Since 2011, it has assisted 4.5million students and their families. AOTC provides up to $2500 tax credit for families to assist them with the cost of college. The credit is unique in that families under a set income without a tax liability are eligible for a tax rebate. President Obama has called for making the tax credit permanent. Outside of legislative work Fattah has created a few local education initiatives for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania families as a state legislator and in cooperation with state and municipal governments, including the CORE scholars program and the annual Grad Conference.
College Opportunity Resources for Education (CORE) is an initiative providing almost $27 million in last-dollar scholarships to over 18,000 students. The program encourages the students to participate in service to the local community and provides technical assistance to the families of program participants ensuring that they apply for educational assistance programs (Pell Grants, PHEAA grants, etc.) offered by the state and federal government.
A report issued by the National Student Clearinghouse concludes that participants in CORE are more likely than their fellow non-CORE classmates to complete their college education in four years.
Fattah was the lead Democrat responsible for the funding of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney General. Since 2011, the Congressman was able to negotiate an increase of $30M to investment in DOJ programs that fund groups including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
In 2012, Fattah negotiated a partnership between FIRST and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to provide robotics programs to 4 million youth by 2015.
Fattah was the lead Democrat responsible for funding some of the largest science agencies in the federal system (NASA, NSF, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In December 2011, Fattah through his role on the Appropriations Committee, directed the OSTP to establish an Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN]. Housed within the White House and chartered on June 20, 2012, the IWGN convenes representatives across the Federal government to make recommendations about the future of neuroscience research.
The Fattah Neuroscience Initiative is a policy initiative designed to make major progress understanding the human brain by intensifying, in a collaborative fashion, federal research efforts across brain disease, disorder, injury, cognition and development. The initiative aims to coordinate Federal research across agencies and draw upon public-private partnerships and the world of academia. The initiative promotes research and discovery across brain cognition, development, disease and injury.
Fattah states that his priority is ensuring that small and medium businesses have the tools they need to prosper in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. He is the lead Democrat responsible for funding the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In his role on the Appropriations Committee, Fattah has advocated to $128 million in funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a program that assists small and mid-sized manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. He is also an advocate for the SelectUSA program, an initiative that encourages U.S. businesses operating off-shore to return to the U.S. and promote the U.S. marketplace.
Fattah was considered a “true champion” of the co-op movement by the American Co-op Association.
In May 2013, Fattah introduced the Creating Jobs through Cooperatives Act (HR 2437). This legislation will provide means to catalyze cooperative development, provide tools to entrepreneurs to bring cooperative to their communities, partner with financial institutions to provide grants a loans to developing businesses, offer technical training and professional development. His bill calls for $25 million federal investment and technical assistance to cooperatives through a new National Cooperative Development Center. The bill has national support from co-op and EOB advocates and members. Co-ops have a broad base and connection to community in the Philadelphia area.
In November 2013, Fattah was invited to attend as Keynote speaker at the Annual Cooperatives Conference, hosted by the NCBA. The conference brought together national leaders in cooperative development to share best practices to create powerful change for their organizations.
As a member of Pennsylvania’s state House Fattah wrote and passed into law Pennsylvania’s Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). HEMAP is a loan program designed to protect Pennsylvanians who, through no fault of their own, are financially unable to make their mortgage payments and are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Started in 1983 by Pennsylvania’s Act 91 of 1983, it was only one of its kind until 2010 when Fattah added language to the Dodd Frank bill to provide similar assistance, to homeowners nationwide. The Emergency Homeowners Loan Program provides up to 24 months of assistance, through bridge loans, for distressed homeowners and is a scaled-up version of the HEMAP program.
In 2013, Fattah served as a vice chair on the House Gun and Violence Taskforce, a taskforce created under the direction of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The taskforce included both liberal and conservative Democrats, gun owners and Representatives from various cities. Fattah received an F rating from the National Rifle Association and an A+ rating from the Coalition on Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for his positions on gun control.
Since 2006, Fattah has “pioneered gun-buyback programs” in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Police. The program offers Philadelphians the chance to exchange firearms for vouchers for groceries or other goods.
In 2004, Fattah introduced a bill titled the "Transform America Transaction Fee," (H.R. 3759) which proposed to have the U.S. Treasury conduct a one-year feasibility study of a 1 percent transaction fee imposed on transactions made at any financial institution. He touted the possibility that such a system would bring in so much money it would allow for greatly increased federal spending, saying the "excess funds" would "provide universal health care, support an equitable public school finance system, and fund economic development in urban and rural areas," in addition to extinguishing the national debt and eliminating all other federal taxes. The bill died without attracting any co-sponsor. In 2005, Fattah introduced the bill again with H.R. 1601, and again in 2007 with H.R. 2130 which had a single cosponsor, Democratic Rep. Brian Baird of Washington. Both bills died without any action being taken. In 2009, Fattah introduced a fourth bill to require having a study conducted, H.R. 1703, which attracted no cosponsors. On February 23, 2010, Fattah reintroduced the bill as the "Debt Free America Act," (H.R. 4646) which proposed to repeal the federal income tax and replace it with a 1 percent "transaction tax" on every financial transaction — whether paid by cash, credit card or any form of financial transfer, the only exception being transactions involving the purchase or sale of stock. The latest bill places more focus on eliminating the federal debt. Fattah has also added a 1 percent tax credit designed to eliminate the impact of the measure on couples making less than $250,000 a year. As of September 5, 2010, none of the House committees have scheduled any action on the latest bill.
In 2005, Fattah opposed the War in Iraq and supported Congressman John Murtha's call for troop withdrawal. He publicly supported the “Bring Our Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Act” a bill that called for bringing the troops home within six months and transitioning the Iraqis to self-government.Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (Ranking Member)
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
In November 2006, he declared his candidacy for Mayor of Philadelphia, where two-term incumbent Mayor John F. Street was barred from re-election by term limits, amid pressure from Democratic voters to keep his Congressional seat in order to maintain a Philadelphia representative on the powerful Appropriations Committee in the House. His candidacy announcement took place next to the recently completed Microsoft School of the Future in the city's Parkside neighborhood to emphasize his campaign platform of better educational opportunities for city youth.
After emerging as a mayoral candidate, Fattah came under fire from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police for his repeated calls to grant a new trial to Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of murdering police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981; he also was criticized for possibly unethical campaign spending, based on new campaign finance rules adopted by the city of Philadelphia. The Fattah campaign defended itself, claiming that it had followed less restrictive federal rules in spending the money, but eventually returned a portion of the excess contributions to the exploratory committee following a settlement with the city's Board of Ethics. Fattah eventually came in fourth in the Democratic primary, close behind fellow Congressman Bob Brady but well behind former city councilman Michael Nutter, who went on to win the fall general election handily.
In August 2014, Fattah's longtime aide and close confidant Gregory Naylor pled guilty to federal charges in a complex money laundering scheme used to hide an illegal million-dollar loan that a candidate, unnamed in that indictment, received for his failed mayoral campaign in 2007. The loan was paid back using federal grant money intended for nonprofit organizations affiliated with Fattah. A subsequent Philadelphia Daily News investigation revealed that nonprofits receiving federal funding and connected to Fattah paid out over $5.8 million to Fattah allies and alleged that many of these payments were ethically dubious.
On July 29, 2015, Fattah and four of his associates, Bonnie Bowser, Karen Nicholas, Herbert Verderman and Robert Brand were indicted for their alleged roles in a racketeering conspiracy involving several schemes that were intended to further the political and financial interests of the defendants and others by, among other tactics, misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds. The FBI further alleged that Fattah accepted an $18,000 bribe from a man seeking an ambassadorship.
The trial was originally scheduled for May 2, 2016, but in April a judge had the date pushed back to May 16 to give the defendants time to review the excess of more than 100,000 documents accrued by the prosecution.
On June 21, 2016, Fattah was convicted of all charges, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, bank fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution, and falsification of records. He announced his immediate resignation from Congress two days later, on June 23. Just days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in McDonnell v. United States which altered the legal definition of bribery to exclude "pay for access." On the basis of this ruling, Fattah appealed his conviction in October 2016, placing his sentencing on hold.
On December 12, 2016, Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He reported for prison at Federal Correctional Institution, McKean near Lewis Run, Pennsylvania on January 25, 2017.
In the 2016 election, Fattah was ousted in the primary by fellow lawmaker Dwight Evans, who won the Democratic nomination.
In the 2014 election, Fattah received 181,141 votes, or 87.7% of the vote, to 25,397, or 12.3%, to his Republican opponent, Armond James, a school teacher with no prior political experience. This was a significant decrease from the 2012 election, when Fattah received 302,746 votes, more votes than any other member of the House of Representatives for that election. Fattah was challenged by Republican nominee Robert Allen Mansfield, Jr. and Independent candidate and publisher of the Germantown Newspapers, Jim Foster.2010 Race for U.S. House
Fattah was challenged by Republican nominee Rick Hellberg, the CEO of a small financial firm.
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 89%
Rick Hellberg (R), 11%
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Pennsylvania, 2010#District 22008 Race for U.S. HouseChaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 89%
Adam Lang (R), 11%
2007 Democratic Primary for Mayor of Philadelphia
Michael Nutter 106,805 36.64%
Tom Knox 71,731 24.61%
Bob Brady 44,474 15.26%
Chaka Fattah 44,301 15.20%
Dwight Evans 22,782 7.82%
Totals 291,492 100%
2006 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 89%
Michael Gessner (R), 9%
2004 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 88%
Stewart Bolno (R), 12%
2002 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 88%
Tom Dougherty (R), 12%
2000 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 98%
Ken Krawchuk (L), 2%
1998 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 86%
Anne Marie Mulligan (R), 14%
1996 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D) (inc.), 88%
Larry Murphy (R), 12%
1994 Race for U.S. House
Chaka Fattah (D), 86%
Lawrence Watson (R), 14%
Fattah is married to his third wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah, a former Philadelphia television news broadcaster on WCAU-TV (NBC 10). They have one young daughter, Chandler Fattah. He is stepfather to her daughter Cameron Chenault. With other women, he is the father of another daughter, Frances ("Fran"), and one son, Chaka Fattah Jr., known as "Chip", who was convicted of felony bank and tax fraud in February 2016.
In 2002, he was named to the PoliticsPA list of Best Dressed Legislators, noting his "excellence in haberdashery."