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Fattah's million dollar man

Is "Person D" in federal documents the former head of a major student loan corporation?

Rep Chaka Fatah. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Rep Chaka Fatah. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)Read moreEd Hille / Staff Photographer

WHO IS "Person D?"

That has been the hot question in political and legal circles since a longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah admitted in federal court Wednesday that he lied to investigators to conceal an illegal $1 million loan to Fattah's 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia.

A source familiar with the investigation said yesterday the man who made that loan - identified as "Person D" in federal documents - is believed to be Albert "Al" Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, the giant student loan financing corporation.

If true, that draws a remarkable loop in where the loan originated and how it was repaid.

The guilty-plea memorandum for Greg Naylor, Fattah's political consultant and former congressional staffer, says $500,000 from the Sallie Mae Fund, the corporation's charitable arm, was misdirected by Fattah - identified as "Elected Official A" - to help pay off the bulk of the campaign loan's balance.

Lord, reached at his home Wednesday afternoon, pleaded ignorance and then denied being the source of the campaign loan.

Asked if he had been contacted by federal investigators, Lord said: "I don't think I can help you" and then hung up the phone.

He did not respond to requests for further comment yesterday.

Naylor's plea memo says "Person D experienced acute financial difficulty" in late 2007 and asked his son to "call in the debt."

Lord certainly faced trying financial times in late 2007.

The New York Times reported in December of that year that Sallie Mae lost $3 billion in market value in one day after a disastrous conference call, during which Lord attempted to reassure the corporation's stockholders about its financial health.

Lord's son, Albert Lord III, said: "Sorry, can't help you" and hung up the phone Wednesday when reached at his office.

He also did not respond yesterday to requests for comment.

Paul Gray and Eric Gibson, the federal prosecutors on the case, and Robert Levant, Naylor's attorney, and Luther Weaver III, Fattah's attorney, all declined to comment about "Person D."

Lord was part of a small group of deep-pocketed donors who put up $615,000 in 2006 for an "exploratory committee" that preceded Fattah's run for mayor in 2007. Lord donated $100,000.

Fattah in 2007 lost a legal bid to undo the city's contribution limits for his mayoral campaign.

Naylor's plea memo says "Elected Official A," after losing a court case that matches Fattah's effort, "engaged in a scheme to violate the applicable Philadelphia campaign finance laws and contribution limits by secretly arranging for and receiving a $1 million campaign contribution in the form of a personal loan from a long-time friend and political supporter."

The memo goes on to say:

* A Washington, D.C.- based political consultant signed a promissory note for the loan.

That appears to be a reference to Tom Lindenfeld, Fattah's 2007 campaign consultant.

* The campaign spent $600,000 on advertising and Election Day "walking around money" and refunded the $400,000 balance.

* "Elected Official A" used nonprofits he founded and fake contracts controlled by his allies to repay the $600,000. The bulk of that was $500,000 from the Sallie Mae Fund "intended by the donor to support the annual Conference on Higher Education named for Elected Official A."

The Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit founded by Fattah and supported by the Sallie Mae Fund, has in the past hosted the annual "Chaka Fattah Conference on Higher Education."

* The campaign loan repayment also included a $100,000 NASA grant that was supposed to go to a student "Math, Science & Technology Enrichment Program."

Lord, who worked at Sallie Mae off and on starting in 1981, retired as CEO in June 2013. He is a trustee for Penn State University and in 2006 attempted to buy the Washington Nationals baseball franchise.

Fattah is seeking an 11th term in the Nov. 4 election.