Lawyers for lobbyist cite earlier FBI probe
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lawyers defending a former Nevada lobbyist and developer against charges that he funneled illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Harry Reid said the FBI investigated the matter five years ago and found no criminal wrongdoing.
Lawyers for defendant Harvey Whittemore asked a federal judge on Tuesday to allow testimony about the investigation at the trial set for May 14, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
U.S. prosecutors disclosed the investigation in documents the newspaper obtained earlier Tuesday from the court’s electronic filing system. The papers were later sealed.
Whittemore is accused of funneling $138,000 to Reid’s re-election campaign in 2007.
His lawyers, Dominic Gentile and Vincent Savarese, wrote in their motion that the FBI investigated and found nothing illegal after media reports detailed Reid’s role in helping Whittemore clear government hurdles for his Coyote Springs housing development north of Las Vegas in 2008.
“Evidence that the government was aware of the campaign contributions at issue in this case, but still found no evidence of a crime, supports (Whittemore’s) defense that he had no criminal intent,” the motion said.
Prosecutors countered that in 2008, investigators didn’t yet have information that was used to indict Whittemore last June on four felony charges, including making excessive contributions and lying to the FBI and the Federal Election Commission.
They said a lawyer for Whittemore’s former business partner provided the information to the FBI in late 2011.
Whittemore, a longtime friend of Reid, is accused of using family members and associates as conduits for contributions to the senator then reimbursing them for the donations.
Whittemore, who denies the allegations, was considered the most powerful legislative lobbyist in Nevada at the time. His clients included the Nevada Resort Association, an organization of the state’s top casinos and 100 other businesses.