Harvey Whittemore, once the most powerful lobbyist in the Nevada Legislature and a kingmaker in federal as well as state elections, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges including making unlawful campaign contributions to a member of Congress.
He is also accused of lying to the Federal Election Commission and the FBI when questioned during the investigation.
Whittemore, 55, could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of four counts.
"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 Lanny Breuer.
He said that federal law makes it illegal to contribute to a federal political campaign using some one as a "conduit" to hide the identity of the true contributor. It also sets limits on what an individual can contribute to a campaign - $2,300 for the primary and the same for a general election.
According to the indictment, Whittemore used family members, employees and their 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."
It says he sent that committee a total of $138,000 in March 2007, "the vast majority of which were conduit contributions."
Federal officials charged that Whittemore then made false statements during an interview with FBI agents, denying that he requested campaign contributions or asked employees to contribute and then never paid them for doing so.
The news release outlining the indictment also says Whittemore paid those people extra to funnel the money to the federal campaign committee. For example, it says, if the person contributed $4,600, Whittemore reimbursed them $5,000 - a $400 bonus for their assistance.
Over the course of a more than 20 years, Whittemore lobbied for some of Nevada's biggest corporations, including the gaming industry. He was regarded as one of the most powerful men in Nevada politics when he left to focus on developments, including the now-defunct Coyote Springs in southern Nevada.
He is also being sued by his former partners in the Coyote Springs Development Co., Thomas and Albert Seeno, who claim he "pillaged" and "looted" assets from that company.
The parties in that action are set to appear in Clark County District Court Friday to set a trial date.