Ex-aide to Brady rival admits scheme to pay off challenger

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An aide to one of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s former political rivals admitted Tuesday to engaging in an alleged scheme that helped remove a challenger to the congressman’s 2012 re-election bid.

Carolyn Cavaness, 34, of Ardmore, told a federal judge that she helped funnel $90,000 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.

Reached Tuesday for comment, 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.

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 of participating in a scheme to file false information on federal finance campaign reports, because the contributions weren’t accurately reported.

Moore and a lawyer for Cavaness were not immediately available for comment.

It’s not clear that Moore ever was a real threat to unseat the longterm 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. 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.”

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