Conviction upheld over contributions to Sen. Harry Reid

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 26, 2015 3:09 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the conviction of a former Nevada lobbyist accused of making illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Harry Reid's 2010 reelection campaign.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected F. Harvey Whittemore's contention that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to convict him.

Prosecutors say Whittemore promised to raise money for Reid in 2007 and distributed $145,000 to 17 relatives and employees, each of whom then made the maximum contribution of $4,600 to Reid's campaign and kept $400.

Whittemore was convicted in 2013 of making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and lying to a federal agency. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, was not accused of any wrongdoing. He was required to amend his campaign reports.

A call to Justin Bustos, an attorney for Whittemore, was not immediately returned.

Whittemore argued that the money he transferred to his family and employees was an unconditional gift with no strings attached, and the recipients were allowed to spend it as they saw fit.

But the 9th Circuit noted in its decision that some recipients testified that Whittemore encouraged them to make contributions to Reid's campaign, sometimes clearly saying the funds were intended to cover the contribution.

The panel also rejected Whittemore's arguments that the trial court's jury instructions were inadequate and that the campaign limits violated his First Amendment rights.

Prosecutors described Whittemore as the "king of the hill" in Nevada political circles, an "ultimate insider" who had worked his way onto the short list of many U.S. senators and representatives as someone to call when they needed to quickly find donors.

Whittemore once hosted an event for ex-Sen. John Edwards, then a Democratic presidential hopeful, and a fundraiser at Reid's request for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

He also helped arrange a reception attended by President Bill Clinton during an environmental summit at Lake Tahoe.