Following a two-week jury trial, F. Harvey Whittemore, a prominent lawyer and former lobbyist in Nevada, was convicted today of making unlawful campaign contributions to a Senate campaign committee in 2007 and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.
“Today, a jury convicted Mr. Whittemore of using dozens of straw donors to evade contribution limits so he could make good on a campaign fundraising promise,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “The cornerstones of our campaign finance laws are contribution limits and transparency, and Mr. Whittemore’s crime was designed to undermine both. Today’s verdict demonstrates our resolve to aggressively pursue those who use illegal tricks to corrupt our democratic process.”
“Persons who knowingly violate campaign contribution laws will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “Campaign laws exist to level the playing field. The public deserves to know that these laws are not just ‘on the books,’ and that persons with power and money who abuse the system for their own benefit will be prosecuted.”
Whittemore, 59, of Reno, Nev., was convicted of one count of making excessive campaign contributions, one count of making contributions in the name of others, and one count of causing a materially false statement to be made to the FEC, all felony offenses.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, during 2007, Whittemore was the chief executive of Wingfield Nevada Group and was a registered lobbyist in Nevada.
On Feb. 21, 2007, Whittemore met with a U.S. senator at a hotel in Las Vegas and agreed to raise $150,000 in contributions for the senator’s campaign committee by March 31, 2007, which marked the end of an FEC-mandated quarterly reporting period.
Federal laws prohibit persons from hiding their true identity when contributing to federal political campaigns, and also set limits on the amount that an individual can contribute to a campaign. In 2007, the maximum individual contribution was $2,300 for a primary election and $2,300 for a general election; thus, the maximum for one candidate was $4,600.
Aware of the strict limits on individual federal campaign contributions, Whittemore devised a scheme to unlawfully use about 29 family members, employees and their spouses as conduits to funnel more than $130,000 of his own money to the campaign. This scheme allowed Whittemore to make an individual campaign donation to the campaign committee in excess of the limits established by federal law. Whittemore concealed the scheme from the FEC, the senator, and the senator’s campaign committee.
In March 2007, Whittemore solicited family members, his employees and their spouses to make the maximum campaign donations to the senator’s campaign and Whittemore reimbursed or advanced the money to the contributors with personal checks and wire transfers. Whittemore also paid the contributors additional money on top of the reimbursements. If a conduit contributed $4,600, Whittemore reimbursed them $5,000; likewise if a couple contributed $9,200, he paid the couple $10,000.
On or about March 28, 2007, Whittemore caused one of his employees to transmit $138,000 in contributions to the senator’s campaign committee, the vast majority of which were conduit contributions that Whittemore had personally funded in order to satisfy his pledge to the senator. On April 15, 2007, the senator’s campaign then unknowingly filed a false report with the FEC stating that the conduits had made the contributions, when in fact, Whittemore had made them.
Whittemore is free on a personal recognizance bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2013. Whittemore faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The case was investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Eric G. Olshan of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre of the District of Nevada.