Ex-aide to Bob Brady challenger says rival was paid to drop out of race

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A campaign aide to the Philadelphia judge who ran briefly against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady in 2012 says Brady’s campaign secretly paid the challenger $90,000 to drop out of the race, according to federal court documents unsealed Tuesday.

Carolyn Cavaness, 34, of Ardmore, told a federal judge that she helped funnel the money from Brady’s campaign fund to the campaign coffers of his Democratic primary opponent, former Philadelphia Municipal Judge Jimmie Moore.

The payments, prosecutors said, were intended to cover Moore’s political debts in exchange for a promise that he would drop out of the race.

Neither candidate was identified by name in court filings or accused of any wrongdoing. But a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia said both campaigns involved in the case were tied to the race to represent Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, the seat Brady has held for nearly two decades.

In court records, they also bluntly expressed concern that Brady would attempt to interfere with the investigation. In a motion last month asking a judge to seal records regarding Cavaness’ looming guilty plea, an assistant U.S. Attorney warned of “a significant danger that [Brady], or others on his behalf, would attempt to contact [her] in a corrupt attempt to influence [her] decision.”

Reached Tuesday for comment, after the filings were unsealed, Brady referred a reporter to Ken Smukler, his longtime political consultant.

“You have to talk to Kenny,” Brady said. “They did all that. That’s five years ago. I don’t remember none of that.”

Asked if his campaign sent Moore’s campaign $90,000 to pay debts, Brady said, “Whatever they did, I don’t know.”

Smukler said he had to speak with Brady before responding to questions.

Still, the case suggests that Brady —  a legendary political powerbroker and chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee since 1986 – may be the latest of the city’s elected officeholders to face FBI scrutiny. Another longtime fixture in the city’s Democratic party, former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, is serving a 10-year prison term after being convicted last year of federal corruption charges.

Cavaness is pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ardmore.

She entered the guilty plea Friday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois. Prosecutors disclosed the plea and the case Tuesday afternoon.

According to her plea agreement, Moore instructed her to create a company whose sole purpose would be to receive funds from Brady’s political campaign that could then be used to pay Moore’s debts.

The payments were allegedly routed through two political consultants, who created false invoices to generate a paper trail intended to justify the payments from Brady’s campaign committee. The charging documents say Cavaness participated in a scheme to file false information on federal finance campaign reports, because the contributions weren’t accurately reported.

It was not clear if Cavaness’ plea agreement requires her to cooperate with investigators or testify against any potential co-conspirators.

Cavaness could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Her lawyer, Anthony J. Petrone, said only: “My client admitted to her role in the offense. What others intend to do is up to them.”

Moore, who now serves as a senior judge, was not immediately available for comment.

Brady’s campaign treasurer, Louis Farinella Jr., died April 28 of renal failure. His widow, Florence, said Tuesday evening that FBI agents visited her house in April, demanding to enter the home. But, she said, her husband was at Holy Redeemer Hospice, where they gave him a subpoena.

“They served him papers there. They’re a—holes,” Florence Farinella said. “He could barely talk his lungs were so bad.”

Asked if her husband ever mentioned the FBI investigation, Florence Farinella said: “Whatever happened with that, I have no idea. My husband and Bob (Brady) said the less I know the better off I am. In case it goes any further.”

It’s not clear that Moore ever was a real threat to unseat the long-term Congressman. At the end of 2011, after Moore’s campaign was under way, he reported having $3,977 in the bank, federal campaign finance reports showed, and he had poured tens of thousands of dollars of his own money into the campaign. At the same time, Brady reported $758,355 on hand for the race.

When he dropped out of the race three months later, Moore released a joint statement with Brady saying his decision reflected “an effort to unify the Philadelphia Democratic Party. ”

Brady in turn praised the decision as “selfless” and pledged to “support Judge Moore in the future.”

Staff writers William Bender and Craig R. McCoy contributed to this report.

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