Thursday, January 2, 2014

Whittemore trying to postpone prison time

Source: Associated Press
Date:   31 december 2013
Author: Scott Sonner

Former Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore trying to postpone prison time

Lawyers appealing an ex-Nevada lobbyist's conviction for illegally
contributing to Sen. Harry Reid's re-election say he should be kept
out of prison while the U.S. Supreme Court ponders a forthcoming
ruling on campaign finance laws that they say have been 'twisted into
a pretzel' through a series of recent court decisions.

Harvey Whittemore faced a Tuesday deadline to file formal briefs for
his appeal, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals extended it
until Jan. 30. That's the day before he's scheduled to begin serving a
two-year prison sentence for violating campaign laws by using 'straw
donors' to pump more than $130,000 into the Senate majority leader's
2007 re-election committee. Reid was never accused of any wrongdoing,
although he had to amend his 2007 report to the Federal Election

Whittemore's lawyers argue in a new motion in federal court in Reno
that the law the former wealthy developer was convicted of breaking
'faces at least some possibility of being stricken from the rolls
outright' in the high court's decision expected in the coming year in
McCutcheon v. FEC - an Alabama case challenging overall limits for
individuals' spending. The government clearly has the constitutional
right to regulate political speech and spending, said Dominic Gentile,
Whittemore's lead lawyer from Las Vegas. But he said varying campaign
finance rulings have created a hodge-podge of rules that affect donors
in unfair ways and infringe upon individuals' First Amendment right to
free speech. While a candidate and political action committee can
spend unlimited amounts of money and an individual can donate freely
to a political action committee, individual contributions to
candidates are limited to $4,600 per election cycle, Gentile said. He
said the result is separate regulations for two 'identical types of
speech' both intended to support and elect the candidate, he said.
'One is protected while the other is purportedly made criminal,' he
wrote in a Dec. 10 filing with U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks.

The McCutcheon case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8
attempts to address the disparity, coming on the heels of its landmark
2010 Citizens United decision that opened the door to large amounts of
independent spending. President Barack Obama said recently that the
current case has the potential to 'go even further than Citizens

A federal jury found Whittemore guilty in May of exceeding the $4,600
contribution limit in 2007 - funneling a total of $138,000 to Reid's
re-election campaign by writing $5,000 checks to family members,
employees and their spouses who in turn contributed $4,600 to Reid.
'The jury did not convict Whittemore of engaging in constitutionally
protected activities,' Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said, 'it
convicted him of knowingly and willfully making illegal straw
donations by soliciting others to donate to Sen. Reid's campaign in
their own names and furnishing the money for those donations.'

Myhre said Whittemore was free to spend as much money as he wanted on
advertising for his candidate, or in contributions to a PAC backing
Reid. He said both the Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit have
'consistently recognized an important distinction between direct
donations to candidates and donations to organizations that make
independent expenditures to support candidates.'

The Supreme Court first upheld contribution limits in its 1976 Buckley
v. Valeo decision, based on arguments they were necessary to fight the
risk of corruption. In Citizens United, the court said spending that
is independent of campaigns poses no risk of corruption, no matter how
large. But Gentile said the justices who concluded independent
expenditures don't give rise to corruption 'did not envision a world
where those 'independent expenditures' were made by organizations
that, themselves are not truly independent.' 'Super PACs act as
nothing more than conduits for unlimited donations in support of a
candidate,' he said, and in fact are less transparent because there
are no reporting requirements until the PAC is required to file its
federal tax forms the following year.

(c) 2013 Associated Press

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