Influential Philadelphia-Area Political Consultant Convicted at Trial of Political Corruption
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Kenneth Smukler, 58, a long-time Philadelphia-area political consultant, was convicted today by a jury of multiple counts related to violating political campaign laws. Specifically, the jury found the defendant guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States; two counts of causing unlawful campaign contributions; one count of causing false campaign expenditure reports; two counts of causing false statements; two counts of making contributions in the name of another; and one count of obstruction. The sentencing hearing is scheduled on March 13, 2019 before the Honorable Jan E. DuBois.
In the 2012 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, Jimmie Moore, a former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge, ran against the incumbent, Congressman Bob Brady. Moore struck a corrupt deal by which he agreed to withdraw from the race in exchange for funds from the Bob Brady for Congress campaign (the “Brady campaign”) to be used to pay off Moore’s campaign debts. Those debts included money that Jimmie Moore for Congress (the “Moore campaign”) owed to several vendors, to Moore himself, and to Moore’s campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness.
On February 29, 2012, Moore withdrew from the race. Moore and Cavaness had prepared a list of debts owed by the Moore campaign which was subsequently provided to Smukler, a campaign consultant for the Brady campaign. Smukler arranged for the Moore campaign to receive $90,000 from the Brady campaign through false documents and a series of illegal pass-throughs, including the consulting firm of another Brady associate and co-conspirator, D.A. Jones. None of the payments, which exceeded the applicable contribution limits, was reported to the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”). Per the arrangement, the three installments were illegally disguised as payments for a poll and consulting services.
Marjorie Margolies, a former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, ran in the 2014 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s Thirteenth Congressional District. Smukler, a veteran of prior Margolies political campaigns, was running the Margolies campaign in 2014. By early April 2014, the primary race was close, and the Margolies campaign was running out of money that the campaign could legally spend in the primary. Smukler caused the Margolies campaign to illegally spend general election funds in his attempt to win the primary election for his candidate, then lied about it to the campaign’s lawyer. That lawyer, in turn, unwittingly reported the lies to the FEC in response to a complaint filed by one of Margolies’ opponents. Additionally, Smukler caused excessive campaign contributions and illegal conduit contributions, all of which were hidden in FEC filings.
“Smukler was the mastermind of multiple crooked political schemes,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He showed a true pattern of deception by misusing funds and lying to corrupt the entire political process. The only way to guarantee open and fair elections is to have everyone play by the same rules. Smukler ignored those rules and broke the law so that his candidates could try to win at all costs. We are grateful that the jury saw through his lies and held him accountable for his widespread criminal conduct.”
"Smukler played fast and loose with the campaign laws that underpin our democratic system," said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. "He apparently felt that the ends justified the means. Well, the government—and this jury—disagree. When corruption weakens the public's trust in a fair electoral process, we all stand to lose."
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eric Gibson and Trial Attorneys Richard Pilger and Rebecca Moses of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.