Brady campaign bribery allegation smells like Philly's political class

Congressman Bob Brady, head of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, speaks at a rally.

Given his actual legislative performance, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady hasn’t done much to earn the seat in Congress he was first elected to in 1998, other than to fight hard to keep it.

That was confirmed by Tuesday’s announcement by federal prosecutors that a competitor’s campaign aide had pleaded guilty to playing a role in a scheme to pay Brady’s challenger $90,000 to drop out of the 2012 Democratic primary.

Brady hasn’t been charged in the ongoing criminal investigation. But what is being alleged sounds like politics as usual in Philadelphia.

There were questions about Brady’s election to the House in 1998, when he replaced the late Rep. Tom Foglietta, who retired to become ambassador to Italy.

It didn’t matter that Brady was white and running in a majority-minority district, a district he didn’t even live in at the time. He was chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, and he wanted the seat.

And he kept it, by any means necessary.

When the state legislature redrew congressional district lines in 2011, Brady lobbied fellow Democrats to support a GOP plan that may have cost the Democrats five Pennsylvania House seats.

Why? Because under the Republican plan, Brady’s congressional district “got a whole lot whiter and a whole lot safer,” as staff writer Chris Brennan reported.

Brady’s district saw the biggest shift in racial demographics of any of the state’s 18 congressional districts. It gained 15 percent more white residents while its African American population dropped 12.5 percent and Hispanic population by 4 percent.

Other than grabbing the First District seat for himself, Brady hasn’t done much with it. Give him credit for helping to solve a variety of labor and other disputes in his hometown, but in Washington for nearly two decades he has achieved no laudable legislative accomplishments.

Under his leadership, the city Democratic party has become a rag-tag organization that doesn’t have the decency to properly screen candidates and denies responsibility when they misbehave after being elected.

Brady’s silence in the wake of past scandals sends a message from the top that integrity isn’t a requirement to hold public office.

Asked Tuesday about the allegation that a potential opponent was bought off, Brady was quick to throw the other campaign under the bus, saying “What they did, I don’t know.”

Ever the bystander, Brady watched a parade of Democrats march off to the pokey following corruption convictions, including former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, former District Attorney Seth Williams, a handful of state representatives, a state senator, and a crew of ticket-fixing Traffic Court judges.

Never did Brady step up to reform the party.

But city Republicans can hardly crow over the opposition’s latest flop. Their party bosses have been content to control a few patronage jobs rather than take on the hard work of mounting just one election challenge with a pulse.

Philadelphia’s political class has no self-respect. If it did, these days of criminality and buffoonery would come to an immediate end.