Comment
12
Tweet
0
Print
RSS Feeds

Developer guilty of illegal contributions to Reid

Wednesday - 5/29/2013, 8:28pm  ET

SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- A Nevada powerbroker who headed a billion-dollar real estate company and pulled the strings of state politics as a prominent lobbyist for more than a decade was convicted Wednesday of making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Harvey Whittemore, 59, could face up to 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts tied to nearly $150,000 illegally funneled to Reid's re-election campaign in 2007.

Later in the day, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks declared a mistrial on a count of lying to the FBI after jurors said they were deadlocked on that charge.

Whittemore stood with his arms behind his back and shook his head slightly after the verdicts were read. He and defense lawyers initially declined comment on the verdicts pending a resolution of the final count.

Whittemore was convicted of making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 23.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said prosecutors will review the case before deciding whether to refile the charge of lying to the FBI during a February 2012 interview.

Reid had no comment on the verdicts, said Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for the senator.

Reid was not accused of any wrongdoing. He has said he was unaware of any potential problems with the money he received.

"I received $25 million. He raised $150,000," Reid previously told the Las Vegas Sun. "I had money coming in from other places."

Prosecutors said Whittemore gave money to family members and employees in 2007 to make contributions he had promised to Reid while concealing himself as the true source to skirt campaign finance laws.

Defense attorneys argued Whittemore broke no laws by giving $5,000 checks as gifts to family members and as gifts or bonuses to 29 employees and their spouses, who then each wrote checks for the maximum allowable $4,600 to the Senate majority leader's campaign fund, Friends of Harry Reid.

Prosecutors said in closing arguments Tuesday that Whittemore had been the "king of the hill" in Nevada political circles, an insider who had worked his way onto the short list of many U.S. senators and representatives as someone to call when they needed to quickly find donors.

Whittemore once hosted an event for Sen. John Edwards, then a Democratic presidential hopeful, and a fundraiser at Reid's request for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He also helped arrange a reception attended by President Clinton during an environmental summit at Lake Tahoe.

"When he made these contributions, he was the ultimate insider," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said during his closing argument. "He was making millions of dollars and getting personal thank-you notes from the most prominent politicians in the country."

Myhre told jurors Whittemore was driven solely by greed -- "not to get more money but greed in the sense of more power."

"It's about trying to be on the short list that senators and congressmen call when they need money," he said. "That's why he did it."

Myhre said after the verdicts that he couldn't comment on why the prosecution chose not to call Reid as a witness, or whether the case involving Whittemore has been completely closed.

The defense acknowledged that Whittemore suggested contributions be made to Reid but had made it clear it was voluntary and -- most importantly -- didn't try to cover up the political fundraising he had been doing for nearly three decades.

Defense lawyer Dominic Gentile said Whittemore's motive was to help re-elect Reid and other Congress members who helped secure federal funding for a university medical research center that he and his wife helped found in 2010.

Defense witnesses testified that Whittemore, former chief of the Wingfield Nevada Group, was a man of integrity who was generous with his money and routinely gave large sums to charities.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.