Morning Digest: FBI confirms it’s investigating Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady over election scheme

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

PA-01: Back in September, retired Judge Jimmie Moore pleaded guilty to concealing a $90,000 payment from Rep. Bob Brady to get him to drop out of the 2012 Democratic primary, a few months after a Moore staffer took part in a similar plea agreement for the same crime. Last month, the case accelerated further, as two longtime Brady aides were indicted for helping orchestrate the scheme. While Brady’s camp still denies any wrongdoing, there’s no question that the feds are aiming to go after the longtime congressman himself. And sure enough, a federal court just unsealed a search warrant that reveals that the FBI is indeed investigating Brady.

Campaign Action

Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District backed Hillary Clinton by a gigantic 80-18 margin, so there’s no danger of it falling into Republican hands. However, what happens next could be critical. Pennsylvania’s primary is May 15, so if Brady is still in office then, he could face a serious challenge. In fact, it was only last cycle that Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represented the neighboring 2nd District and was under indictment at the time as part of a separate corruption investigation, lost to Dwight Evans 42-34. So far, no serious Democrat has announced that they will jump in against Brady. However, while even a few years ago other Democrats might have been wary of challenging the longtime leader of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, things are a bit different now.

The local party has lost quite a bit of juice, and this year, its preferred candidates embarrassingly lost Democratic primaries for city controller and for several judgeships—precisely the type of low-profile contests that a strong party machine is supposed to win with ease. Last year, Brady also backed Fattah to the hilt, which turned out to be a humiliating error in judgment. However, even though Brady is the most vulnerable he’s ever been, we still don’t know who might take him on. Nonprofit director Omar Woodard said back in August that he expected to decide by early October, but we’ve heard nothing in the ensuing months. There’s also financial planner Lindy Li, who said in September that she was interested in running for Congress and reportedly told activists she wanted to run in the 1st, but later she claimed she hadn’t mentioned this seat at all.

It’s also possible that Brady could yet resign (perhaps as part of a plea bargain) in time to hold a special election before the primary. If that happens, local Democratic ward leaders would chose the nominee for the special election, a nominee who would almost certainly wind up becoming the next congressman. And guess who would mastermind that selection process? Seventy-five percent of the 1st District is in Philadelphia, so Brady’s own Philadelphia Democratic City Committee would have the most influence in selecting the nominee. (The balance of the district is in Delaware County.) Even if Brady ends up leaving his party leadership post, too, his allies could essentially hand-pick his successor.

Of course, that person would then have to run in the regular May primary, and getting stamped as the choice of the corrupt Brady machine might not exactly be an asset.