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Chairman of city panel resigns, admits campaign fraud

20130626_dn_0moz0zylBy Sean Collins Walsh, Daily News Staff Writer

Stanley Straughter, who until recently was chairman of the Philadelphia Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, has pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting repayments for political donations in a scheme to circumvent campaign-contribution limits.

Straughter, 71, is the third person to plead guilty in relation to the case of Jeffrey Thompson, a Washington political operative who allegedly orchestrated a web of donors whom he would direct to make campaign contributions and then later repay. Thompson was not named in court documents but has been identified as the target of the broader probe by numerous D.C. media outlets.

Straughter admitted Monday to knowingly violating the law for accepting at least $132,600 in repayments, court documents show. The donations for which Straughter pleaded guilty were for the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and U.S. House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington.

He faces up to a year in prison and has agreed to cooperate with investigators.

“Mr. Straughter recognizes and acknowledges that getting reimbursed from a corporation was unlawful,” said Straughter’s attorney, Steve McCool. “He accepted responsibility for that conduct yesterday in court, and his poor judgment does not change the fact that he’s had a long and distinguished career helping people.”

Former Mayor John Street appointed Straughter to the immigrant commission in 2005, when it was created. He did not receive a city salary.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who has worked closely with the commission and Straughter, said he stepped down two weeks ago because of the scandal.

“He’s been a capable, committed, wonderful person,” Blackwell said. “We’re saddened” by the news, she said.

Straughter funneled some of the repayments through his Philadelphia firm Oak Lane Consulting Group, according to court documents.

He has previously worked for D.C. accountants Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, where Thompson was majority owner before the federal probe came to light last year. His name has been removed from the business.

Straughter has donated to many local campaigns, including those for: Blackwell and fellow Council members Curtis Jones Jr. and Marian Tasco; state Sens. Vincent Hughes and LeAnna Washington; state Reps. Cherelle Parker and Dwight Evans; and District Attorney Seth Williams.

None of his local donations were part of the guilty plea.

PHOTO:  STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Stanley Straughter , the former chairman of Philly’s African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs Commission, seen here with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell in 2008, has admitted to participating in a scheme that helped Washington candidates circumvent campaign-contribution limits.

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