Whittemore’s conviction upheld over contributions to Sen. Harry Reid
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the conviction and sentence imposed on the once powerful Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore.
Whittemore was convicted of making excessive contributions to Sen. Harry Reid in 2007 by providing his relatives and employees with $145,000 with instructions they forward the money to Reid’s campaign.
There were allegations at the time that Whittemore, who was developing the master-planned Coyote Springs community 50 miles from Las Vegas, needed congressional help to get the project under way. Prosecutors argued he had promised to raise $150,000 for Reid.
Reid was not accused of any complicity in the scheme.
Whittemore, a lawyer and longtime major player in Nevada politics, was convicted of three felony counts of making excessive campaign contributions in some one else’s name and filing a false statement to the Federal Elections Commission. The jury was hung on one count of making a false statement to a federal agent, a charge subsequently dropped by prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of Reno sentenced him to two years in federal prison for willful violations of federal election laws. He surrendered in August to begin serving that sentence at the Lompoc federal prison facility in California.
His chief legal counsel Dominic Gentile appealed to the 9th Circuit Court arguing that Whittemore did nothing to hide raising money for Reid’s campaign.
U.S. Attorney Dan Bodgen said at the time Whittemore surrendered that he “made a conscious and willful choice to violate federal election laws in order to increase his own power and influence.”
Whittemore’s lawyers had argued that unconditional gifts “made to a third party who subsequently decides to voluntarily contribute to a campaign, even if that contribution is made pursuant to the suggestion of the giftor,” are not banned by federal law.
The court rejected that argument saying it wasn’t supported by federal law. The panel by Judge W. Fletcher ruled that, in this case, the people who received the money and transmitted it to Reid’s campaign were merely intermediaries.
The court also upheld the jury’s decision that Whittemore acted knowingly and willfully in arranging the contributions to Reid.