By Michael Ginsberg
The Center for Accountability and Government Ethics (CAGE) filed a complaint on Oct. 24 alleging that Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman violated Pennsylvania non-profit law through his purchase of several properties in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Fetterman, who served as mayor of Braddock from 2006-2019, owns eight properties in the area. They include several vacant lots, and are the subject of a watchdog complaint filed by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). CAGE alleges in its complaint, obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller, that Fetterman bought and sold one of the properties in a way that violated Pennsylvania non-profit law and his organization’s charter.
CAGE, a new venture of the CPAC Foundation, will serve as a right-leaning ethics watchdog.
Braddock Redux served as a conduit for a real estate deal conducted by Fetterman and Braddock deputy mayor Jebediah Feldman, the non-profit’s vice president, the complaint, filed with the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth and the state Ethics Commission, alleges. Feldman initially purchased a vacant commercial lot in 2007 for $75,000, according to the Allegheny County Real Estate Portal. Feldman sold the lot to Braddock Redux in 2011 for $1, and Fetterman purchased it from the non-profit in 2014 for $1,100.
Feldman appears to have taken a $74,999 loss on the property. The lot is part of a block that houses three artistic projects, The Braddock Community Oven, UnSmoke Systems Art Space, and barebones productions. A Washington Post report describes Braddock Redux as a way for Fetterman “to implement his vision of a revitalized Rust Belt community of artists and other urban homesteaders.”
Feldman did not respond to questions from the Daily Caller on why he was willing to take such a massive loss on the land deal. (RELATED: John Fetterman, A Democratic Senate Candidate, Pulled A Shotgun On An Unarmed Black Jogger In 2013)
“When you sign a tax form as head of an organization, you’re signing it with the force of law. Usually the IRS allows you to amend, but the question remains, ‘why didn’t they disclose a relation in the 990?’ The silence is deafening,” CPAC Foundation Senior Vice President and General Counsel David Safavian told the Daily Caller.
The purchase appears to violate Braddock Redux’s articles of incorporation. They prohibit any of the organization’s “net earnings” from “inur[ing] to the benefit of or be[ing] distributable to any contributor, director, [or] officer,” unless they are part of a “reasonable compensation for services rendered,” according to documents included in the complaint. The sales violate this provision because the property was sold to Fetterman below market value, Safavian added.
Read the complaint here:
“Fetterman got this property for 16 cents a foot, while the comps in the area went for two dollars per square foot. That would seem to be a clear indicator he generated value to himself by engaging in this transaction,” he explained.
The complaint also alleges that Braddock Redux’s board violated Pennsylvania non-profit law by not having disinterested board members approve the real estate deal. Any such deal must be “fair” to the non-profit, and neither requirement appears to have been met. Pennsylvania allows for the revocation of a non-profit’s charter if the organization engages in activities that violate state law.
“Nowhere in the record … does it appear that Braddock Redux or Mr. Fetterman complied with these requirements,” the complaint says.
Braddock Redux did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment on the complaint.
Fetterman and his communications team have repeatedly highlighted Republican opponent Mehmet Oz’s extensive property holdings on social media and during their one debate. Oz owns at least 12 residential properties, Business Insider reported in September, although ethics complaints against his property holdings have not been reported.
The Fetterman campaign denied any wrongdoing in a statement to the Daily Caller. (RELATED: John Fetterman Attends Ritzy Hamptons Fundraiser While Continuing To Duck Debates)
“This is a frivolous and ridiculous complaint filed by a radical, far-right dark money group,” campaign spokesman Joe Calvello said.
Safavian argues that the entirety of Fetterman’s real estate portfolio is worthy of suspicion. The candidate did not note several parcels of land in a financial disclosure submitted to the U.S. Senate, according to the FACT complaint.
“Fetterman has bought up all the property on this one block,” he said. These purchases “raise two different questions. Either Braddock Redux is giving a significant benefit to Fetterman by selling him a parcel below market value, or this may be a case of the cover-up being more significant than the underlying activity,” he explained.
“Fetterman is either a sloppy manager, or he’s hiding something,” he added.