Political Consultant and Attorney Sentenced to 18 Months for Role in Two Campaign Finance Schemes
PHILADELPHIA – William M. McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Brian A. Benczkowski, the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice, announced that Kenneth Smukler, 58, a long-time Philadelphia-area political consultant and attorney, was sentenced today by the Honorable Jan E. DuBois to 18 months in prison, one year supervised release and a $75,000 fine for his role in two separate criminal schemes to violate federal campaign finance laws.
The first scheme involved 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.
The second scheme involved the 2014 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s Thirteenth Congressional District. Marjorie Margolies, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was running in the primary and Smukler, a veteran of prior Margolies political campaigns, was running the Margolies campaign. 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.
On December 3, 2018, a jury found Smukler 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.
“In order to win at all costs, Smukler knowingly and purposefully undermined our democratic process by misusing campaign funds and lying about it,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “My Office will continue to prosecute public corruption wherever and whenever we uncover it. Now Smukler is headed to jail, and I am grateful that the Court imposed a just sentence reinforcing the fact that this kind of corruption will never be tolerated.”
“Campaign finance laws exist to ensure transparency and fairness in the electoral process,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “When corruption weakens the public's trust in that process, our democracy itself is dealt a blow. Kenneth Smukler played fast and loose with the system to try to give his candidates a leg up. He broke the law repeatedly and now is being held accountable.”
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. It was previously investigated by former Public Integrity Section Trial Attorney Jonathan I. Kravis.