One night last week, R. Seth Williams, our scandal-plagued District Attorney, stopped by the Union League.
But on this night, Williams, a longtime league member, was denied entry into the French Renaissance mansion built in 1865 that occupies an entire Center City block.
Williams, according to a knowledgable source, was informed that he was no longer considered a member of the private club that bills itself as a "shining jewel of history in a city defined by such treasures." That's because Williams hasn't been paying his bills at the club where dues run about $400 a month, or $4,800 a year.
So Williams left and returned with a $5,000 check. The only problem was, the check, according to the source, was drawn on the D.A.'s political action committee. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the reasons Williams is being investigated by a federal grand jury is for alleged use of political funds to pay personal expenses. Not that Seth spending campaign money at the Union League would necessarily be doing anything illegal.
With an ethical cloud hanging over our D.A., however, the Union League wouldn't take the check. But the FBI is aware of its existence.
Jeffrey P. McFadden, the Union League's general manager, did not respond to a request for comment; neither did Patricia Tobin, the league's assistant general manager, who supposedly wound up with the check.
John J. Pease, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney who is Williams' criminal lawyer, was out of the office and not available for comment. Cameron Kline, Williams' spokesman at the District Attorney's Office, declined comment.
In recent years, Williams has been a fixture at the Union League, throwing lavish lunches and dinners there. A common sight when Williams visited the Union League on a sweltering summer day was seeing the D.A.'s two big bodyguards posted outside the club sweating in their suits, while the boss was inside enjoying the air conditioning, and puffing on a cigar.
Williams has a habit of using campaign funds to pay off his debts at the Union League. It's a practice that can be argued is perfectly legal, as Williams can say he's elevating his profile at the Union League while socializing with constituents and campaign contributors. But those campaign records, as well as Seth's bills at the Union League that were subpoenaed a while back, are something that the U.S. Attorney, the FBI and a grand jury are looking at, to make sure all of that money was spent on political causes, not personal.
It may be legal to throw campaign money around at the Union League, but doing it while the feds are on your tail might also qualify as just plain dumb.
Last March, the Inquirer reported that the Friends of Seth Williams, the D.A.'s longtime political action committee, listed nearly $19,000 on its 2015 campaign finance statement for dues and expenses at the Union League.
The campaign finance report for the Friends of Seth Williams in 2014 lists $28,509 for membership dues, lunches and dinner expenses at the Union League, 24 percent out of $116,518 of the PAC's expenses for that year.
The 2013 report for the Friends of Seth Williams lists only $5,569 in dues and lunch expenses, while the 2012 report lists $26,820 in membership dues and lunch expenses.
The grand jury is also known to be investigating the D.A.'s acceptance of $175,000 in undeclared gifts and income, actions that caused Williams to be fined $62,000 by the city's Ethics Board. The term of the grand jury, originally scheduled to expire last month, has been extended into March, meaning a decision on whether to indict the D.A. could be coming soon.
There is no word yet on whether Williams has paid up his debts, and whether he is back to smoking stogies inside the Union League.