Nevada Lobbyist Harvey Whittemore Indicted for Making Unlawful Campaign Contributions and Lying to Investigators
Reno, Nev. – Prominent Nevada lobbyist and lawyer Harvey Whittemore was indicted today by a federal grand jury on charges that he made unlawful campaign contributions to an elected member of Congress, caused false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and lied to the FBI, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.
"Mr. Whittemore allegedly used his family members and employees as conduits to make illegal contributions to the campaign committee of an elected member of Congress," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "Furthermore, according to today's indictment, he attempted to conceal his crimes by lying to the FBI. Our campaign finance laws establish maximum limits on individual contributions, and failure to adhere to those rules jeopardizes the integrity of our elections. We will continue to pursue those who engage in such conduct."
F. Harvey Whittemore, 55, of Reno, Nevada, was charged with one count of making excessive campaign contributions, one count of making contributions in the name of others and two counts of making a false statement to a federal agency. If convicted, Whittemore faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
"We remain committed to investigating and prosecuting illegal behavior that jeopardizes the integrity of our elections and corrupts our political process," stated U.S. Attorney Bogden. "Campaign finance laws exist to protect that process and criminal violations of those laws will be vigorously prosecuted by this office."
Under federal law, it is illegal to contribute to a federal political campaign using a conduit in order to hide the identity of the true contributor. Federal law also sets 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.
The indictment states that Whittemore was the chief executive of Company A, and was a registered lobbyist in Nevada. On about Feb. 21, 2007, Whittemore allegedly met with an elected member of Congress (identified in the indictment as federal elected official 1), and agreed to try to collect $150,000 in contributions for the elected official's campaign committee by March 31, 2007, which marked the end of an FEC-mandated quarterly reporting period. Aware of the strict limits on individual federal campaign contributions, Whittemore allegedly devised a scheme and plan whereby he used family members, employees of Company A, and their respective spouses, as prohibited conduits through which to funnel his own money to the federal elected official's campaign committee under the guise of lawful campaign contributions. This scheme allowed Whittemore to make an individual campaign donation to the federal elected official in excess of the limits established by federal law. Whittemore allegedly concealed the scheme from the FEC, the elected official and the elected official's campaign committee.
In March 2007, Whittemore allegedly solicited the employees, family members and their respective spouses to make the maximum campaign donations to the federal elected official and reimbursed the contributors with personal checks and wire transfers. In numerous cases, he provided money to the contributors before the contributions were made. The indictment alleges that Whittemore attempted to conceal some of the reimbursements he made to the contributors by telling the employees that they were bonuses. Whittemore also allegedly 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 about March 28, 2007, Whittemore allegedly caused a Company A employee to transmit $138,000 in contributions to the federal elected official's campaign committee, the vast majority of which were conduit contributions that Whittemore had personally funded in order to satisfy his pledge to the federal elected official. On April 15, 2007, the campaign committee then unknowingly filed false reports with the FEC stating that the conduits had made the contributions, when in fact, Whittemore had made them.
On about Feb. 9, 2012, Whittemore allegedly made false statements during an interview with FBI agents by claiming that he never made a request for campaign contributions; never asked employees of Company A to contribute to the elected official's campaign; never provided payments to anyone with the expectation that they would serve as reimbursements for campaign contributions; never spoke to any candidate about raising money for the candidate; and never gave money to family members to make political contributions.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sue Fahami and Trial Attorney Eric G. Olshan of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.