Pa. Political Consultant Guilty in Federal Campaign Finance Case
- Smukler worked for House Democrats Brady and Margolies
- Arranged for payment to induce Brady opponent to drop out
A veteran political consultant was convicted of causing illegal campaign contributions and falsifying campaign finance reports when he worked for the campaigns of retiring Rep. Robert Brady and former Rep. Marjorie Margolies.
Kenneth Smukler maintained that his actions aiding the two Pennsylvania Democrats didn’t violate the law, but a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania disagreed. Smukler was found guilty Monday of nine counts, including conspiracy, false statements and obstruction. He faces years of possible jail time in a sentencing hearing set for March 2019.
“We will hold accountable those who violate campaign finance and other laws designed to protect the fairness and transparency of our democracy,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a Justice Department statement announcing the verdict.
A lawyer for Smukler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said Smukler arranged for an illegal $90,000 payment to induce an opponent of Brady during a 2012 primary campaign to drop out of the race. The payments were disguised in reports to the Federal Election Commission as legitimate campaign expenses.
Brady was never charged. The campaign finance scandal prompted a number of Democrats to consider challenging him and Brady chose not to run for re-election this year from the Philadelphia district. Brady said the probe wasn’t a factor in his retirement.
In 2014, Smukler worked for Margolies, who lost a primary race in a bid to return to Congress after losing her House seat in 1994. Prosecutors said Smukler caused the Margolies campaign to use money contributed for the general election campaign to help win the primary, in violation of FEC rules. After Margolies lost the primary, Smukler arranged for money to be funneled into the campaign illegally, in order to pay back donors for their general election contributions.
Margolies wasn’t charged and cooperated with prosecutors in the case against Smukler.
Smukler’s case is the latest in a series of federal criminal prosecutions of campaign finance violations. In another key case, top aides to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), including Jesse Benton, were convicted of falsifying FEC reports during the 2012 presidential campaign. Benton’s conviction was upheld by a federal appeals court earlier this year; a petition for review is pending in the Supreme Court.
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