PHILADELPHIA (CN) - In a campaign-finance scandal that threatened to bring down a U.S. congressman, the only defendant who rolled the dice on a trial was convicted late Monday of nine counts.
Federal prosecutors indicted Kenneth Smukler, 58, last fall shortly after Jimmie Moore, a former judge with the Philadelphia Municipal Court, pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Elections Commission about a $90,000 payment he took from his opponent to drop out of the 2012 election.
In that election, Moore had been running to unseat U.S. Rep. Bob Brady in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, and Smukler had been Brady’s top political strategist.
On the road to Smukler’s trial, the government brought a superseding indictment that accused Villanova resident of additional illegal activity in the 2014 election.
Smukler had managed the re-election bid that year of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies. When the Margolies campaign had been running low on funds it could spend in the 2014 primary, according to the indictment, Smukler directed the campaign to keep spending.
Prosecutors said he covered the ledger by making a backdoor $78,750 payment to the campaign. Whereas Smukler told the campaign that the money came from a segregated media account, prosecutors said it had actually come from one of Smukler’s associates.
Margolies still lost the primary, however, and prosecutors said Smukler then used his consulting companies to funnel $150,000 in illegal contributions from an associate to the campaign in an attempt to mask the shortfall. Smukler characterized the transfer as refunds of money that had been escrowed in Smukler’s companies for general election expenses.
Late Monday afternoon after a three-week trial, a jury in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District convicted Smukler on nine of 11 counts, including conspiracy to violate federal law, making and causing unlawful campaign contributions, and causing false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection to both the Brady and Margolies campaigns.
Smukler was convicted as well of obstructing an FEC investigation and causing the filing of false reports to the FEC concerning contributions and expenditures. He was acquitted, however, of two charges involving false statements made to the FEC regarding the 2012 Brady-Moore election.
Brady, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on House Administration, has not been charged and was not called to testify at Smukler’s trial. Though he remains chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, Brady announced in January that he would not seek re-election after 20 years in Congress.
On the road to Smukler’s conviction, prosecutors obtained guilty pleas from Moore’s campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness, and another campaign consultant, D.A. Jones. Margolies meanwhile testified against Smukler under a grant of immunity. Her son, Marc Mezvinsky, is married to Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois will sentence Smukler on March 13, 2019.
“Smukler was the mastermind of multiple crooked political schemes,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement. “He showed a true pattern of deception by misusing funds and lying to corrupt the entire political process. The only way to guarantee open and fair elections is to have everyone play by the same rules. Smukler ignored those rules and broke the law so that his candidates could try to win at all costs. We are grateful that the jury saw through his lies and held him accountable for his widespread criminal conduct.”
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