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Press Release

Texas businessman convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to political candidates

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON -  A Houston businessman has pleaded guilty to making illegal political contributions in the names of others to campaign committees for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2017, announced First Assistant U.S. AttorneyTim S. Braley along with Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

James D. Dannenbaum, 80, pleaded guilty today to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act. 

On Nov. 22, Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation (DEC) and its parent company, Engineering Holding Corporation, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). They also agreed to pay a $1.6 million criminal fine for its involvement in a multi-year conduit contribution scheme. Dannenbaum is DEC’s former CEO.

As part of the plea, Dannenbaum admitted that from 2015 through 2017, he and DEC made $323,300 in illegal conduit contributions through various employees and their family members to federal candidates and their committees. DEC corporate funds were used to advance or reimburse employee monies for these contributions. Dannenbaum did not reveal to any of the federal candidates that the corporation was the true source of the contributions. The object of the scheme was for DEC, Dannenbaum and a former employee to gain access to and potentially influence various candidates for federal office, including candidates for the presidency as well as the Senate and House of Representatives.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas accepted the plea and set sentencing for March 5, 2020. At that time, Dannenbaum faces up to two years in federal prison.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Ferko and John Pearson are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Jessica C. Harvey of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

Updated December 9, 2019

Public Corruption