It is a familiar tableau: A politician announces a grant to a group of charity workers. They applaud and thank him profusely for his longtime support.
For U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), that's where it ends. He'll take the credit, the adulation, and the votes for steering taxpayer money to nonprofit organizations. But he won't accept a speck of responsibility when they get into trouble.
Fattah even issued a recent statement codifying this hypocrisy. "I am proud to have helped secure federal funding for hundreds of universities, nonprofit organizations, and community groups," it said. "However, no congressional office - my office included - monitors the use of those funds. That responsibility rests with the funding agencies."
Fattah secured more than $3.3 million in federal funds for the Educational Advancement Alliance, which reportedly helped 27,000 students seek college degrees. Now FBI agents are investigating the defunct charity, which was run by a former aide to the congressman, partly because they believe the group was used to pay off $600,000 in illegal debt for Fattah's 2007 mayoral campaign. Two key Fattah operatives have pleaded guilty to corruption charges stemming from their role in moving funds through the charity to repay a political donor.
Even in the absence of a federal investigation such as the one facing Fattah, every politician who steers public money to a third party should hold it accountable if it misuses those funds. Fattah owes it to the taxpayers to accept his responsibility, find out where the money went, and offer a public explanation.