ST. LOUIS (CN) – A state senator, a state representative and a campaign treasurer pleaded guilty to federal obstruction charges Tuesday. State Sen. Jeff Smith, state Rep. Mark Brown and Nicholas Adams admitted conspiring to obstruct the Federal Election Commission from July 2004 to December 2007, and Smith and Adams admitted conspiring to obstruct a federal grand jury from June 1 to July 15 this year.
Adams was Smith’s campaign treasurer.
Smith, 35, Brown, 42, and Adams, 29, conspired with a group called Voters for Truth in the summer of 2004, to run negative advertisements against Russ Carnahan, Smith’s opponent in a congressional race.
On July 23, 2004, the defendants mailed 25,000 negative advertisement postcards to voters, but failed to identify the organizations involved in their production, court papers state.
The Russ Carnahan for Congress committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, prompting an investigation.
On Sept. 8, 2004, Smith submitted a false sworn affidavit to the Federal Election Commission, claiming he had no knowledge of who sent the postcard. A man whom court papers identify as John Doe also gave false sworn testimony to the FEC with the promise of getting work on Smith and Brown’s campaign committees if he kept quiet. Adams was interviewed on March 15, 2007 by the FEC and falsely denied involvement in the postcards, court papers state.
The FEC’s general counsel issued its final report on the matter on Dec. 10, 2007, recommending that no action be taken against the Friends of Jeff Smith Committee or any individuals. The report suggested that John Doe paid for the postcards himself and created Voters for Truth to conceal his involvement.
But in January this year, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, acting upon newly discovered information, opened a criminal investigation to determine whether anyone had attempted to obstruct the Federal Election Commission proceeding.
Prosecutors say Smith, Brown and Adams met several times in June 2009 to discuss the possibility that John Doe was cooperating with the investigation. During one of these meetings, Smith discussed how they should respond if interviewed by the FBI. He acknowledged that Adams and Artie Harris, both workers on his campaign, handled the coordination between his committee and John Doe and what evidence Doe might have against him.
Smith and Adams were interviewed by the FBI on June 30, and made numerous false statements. After the interviews, they met with Brown and urged him to tell FBI agents that Harris, now deceased, was the only one who had contact with John Doe. Smith and Adams then agreed to buy and communicate only through pay-as-you-go cellular phones.
Smith and Adams pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Brown pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each conspiracy count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The three will be sentenced on Nov. 10. Smith and Brown have resigned.