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Rep. Chaka Fattah's (D-Pa.) new chief of staff ran the operations of an organization founded by the congressman that federal investigators say was part of a scheme to misuse taxpayer funds.
A former Fattah staffer has pleaded guilty and detailed a plan to funnel funds for a loan to Fattah's 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia through several nonprofits, according to reporting by Philly.com. Roger J. Jackson Jr., Fattah's new chief of staff, was the vice president and COO of one of the groups, the Educational Advancement Alliance, between 2005 and 2009.
While the investigation into EAA has received press attention, Jackson's hiring this month has not.
Fattah said in a statement Tuesday he is pleased to have Jackson on staff after his 20 years as an "educator, principal and non-profit executive."
"I could not be prouder of the work of the Educational Advancement Alliance, and Roger's success there helping more than 20,000 African American and Hispanic professionals earn graduate degrees," Fattah said. "He is an extraordinarily capable public servant, and I am thrilled to have him join my congressional office in this role."
Jackson's name has not emerged publicly from the federal investigation. However, his group has become a central part of an alleged scheme to bypass a campaign contribution cap in an election Fattah later lost. Public focus increased on EAA after longtime Fattah aide Gregory Naylor pleaded guilty in August to concealing the misuse of grant funds and campaign contributions.
Naylor has pleaded guilty to helping to circumvent the $5,000 contribution limit in the mayoral race by taking a $1 million loan and paying it back in part with $600,000 in federal grant dollars diverted from EAA, according to Philly.com. Fattah directed more than $12 million in earmarks to EAA between 2008 and 2010, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The Department of Justice also audited a $1.87 million federal grant awarded during the time Jackson was with the organization. The audit concluded $1.26 million of the funds, managed by EAA to improve access to higher education for at-risk students in Philadelphia, was misused or unsupportable under the grant.
Jackson's connection to Fattah extends back to 1990 when he participated in the Fattah Conference on Higher Education, according to Fattah's statement. EAA has hosted the conference, according to Philly.com.
Jackson later briefly interned for Fattah in 1991 in his Pennsylvania State Senate office, Fattah said.
Before joining Fattah on the Hill earlier this month, Jackson was executive director at the College Settlement of Philadelphia. Since his years at EAA he has also served as executive officer of Arise Academy Charter High School in Philadelphia and executive director of the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
Jackson holds degrees from the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, Temple University and Seton Hall University.
Jackson tweeted on his first day in Fattah's office: "Is blessed to begin today the next chapter God has prepared for me; excited to see how he uses me in this assignment! #WalterMitty."
A 21-year Hill veteran has left the Capitol for a lobbying gig at another District institution, George Washington University.
Askia Suruma, who left last month as the House Ways and Means Committee's Democratic staff director, is now the director of federal and international relations for George Washington, which currently enrolls about 25,000 students. GW has not filed lobbying papers since 2009 when it was last represented by Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.
Suruma brings more than two decades worth of government experience to Foggy Bottom. He started out with Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) in 1993, first as an intern. He eventually climbed the ranks to become his legislative director and his deputy staff director on the House Rules Committee. During his tenure with Frost, he did a short stint as a public information officer with the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2007, he switched to the House Ways and Means Committee and moved from being a deputy staff director under Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-New York) to the staff director under Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Michigan). Suruma earned his BSFS degree in economics from GW's cross-town rival, Georgetown University.
This won't be the first time Suruma's household has counted on a paycheck from GW. His wife works there already.
While Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts will be nervously watching ballots on Election Day as he faces accusations that he is out of touch with voters, his Republican colleague, Jerry Moran, has made his own plans that day to get in touch with constituents.
Moran is the first member of Congress to announce a town hall event for Nov. 4. The lunchtime event in Neodesha, Kansas, is co-hosted with the Rotary Club. The junior senator won't be on the ballot until 2016.
Moran has hosted frequent town halls. He claimed he crossed the 1,000-mark for town hall meetings a year ago with a pancake breakfast stop.
Meanwhile, Roberts is locked in a bruising campaign with independent Greg Orman. Recent polling suggests Orman is neck and neck with the long-time incumbent.
A former staffer for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has officially registered to lobby on issues affecting the U.S. Navy.
Edgar Rodriguez is now director of legislation and government affairs for the Association of the United States Navy. The Association is a membership organization made up of current and former sailors and officers, and it lobbies Congress "for a strong Navy." It has no formal affiliation with the Navy.
Rodriguez left Cardin's office in August after more than two years, first as a legislative correspondent, then as legislative aide.
Rodriguez wasn't in a senior position and is allowed to begin lobbying whenever he pleases, according to Senate ethics rules. The only stipulation in place is that he cannot lobby Cardin or his staff until he has been off the Senate payroll for at least a year.
Before joining Cardin's staff, Rodriguez worked as an intern for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.). Prior to that he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Vanderbilt University has taken another step toward sharpening its lobbying push on Capitol Hill by hiring a House committee policy staffer.
The university's lobbying expenditures have shot up from five years ago, with $230,000 spent in the first two quarters of 2014 compared to $150,000 for the full 2009 year. Vanderbilt's three registered lobbyists in the last few years have advocated for research dollars and federal student aid as well as on immigration reform to help international students.
Vanderbilt's latest hire, Gabriella Ra'anan, was a policy staffer for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Space Subcommittee since April 2013, after shifting from a policy staff role on the committee's oversight subcommittee earlier that year. She was also a junior professional staff member and policy analyst on the House Foreign Affairs Committee between 2011 and 2013.
Ra'anan's new job as assistant director of federal relations for Vanderbilt is also her second time in an advocacy office for a university. She interned in 2010 and 2011 at Brown University, where she received her bachelor's degree, in the Office of Government Relations and Community Affairs.
Vanderbilt has a well-honed lobbying pitch. The university dedicates a section of its website to its lobbying efforts for federal grants and contracts and on issues impacting higher education. The site breaks down Vanderbilt's impact in Tennessee by congressional district and displays other "fast facts" for lawmakers.
We spend a large part of our days looking at data. Documents often come in by the dozens and hundreds. And while most are boring - how interesting can staring at a phone directory or salary records be, for example? - we find daily reasons for interest, amusement or even concern packed in the documents. So we are launching a new running feature that we call "Caught our Eye."
Longer than tweets but shorter than most blog posts, Caught our Eye items will bring back the interest in reviewing documents and researching people. Some items might bring hard, breaking news. Others will raise eyebrows and lead some into further inquiry. Others might be good for a joke or two around the water cooler. All will enlighten about the people or workings of Capitol Hill.
Caught our Eye items will be published each morning for LegiStorm Pro subscribers. Non-Pro site users will be able to receive the news items a few hours later. In addition to having immediate access to the news, LegiStorm Pro users will have a handy way to search and browse all past items.