International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Friday, May 10, 2019

Philadelphia-Area Political Consultant and Attorney Sentenced After Conviction in Two Campaign Finance Schemes

A long-time Philadelphia-area political consultant and attorney was sentenced today for his role in two criminal schemes to violate federal campaign finance laws announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Kenneth Smukler, 57, of Villanova, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release by the Honorable Jan E. DuBois.  In the 2012 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, Jimmie Moore, a former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge, ran against the incumbent Congressman Bob Brady.  Assisted and directed by Smukler, Moore executed a corrupt deal in which he agreed to withdraw from the race in exchange for funds from the Bob Brady for Congress campaign (the Brady campaign) to be used to pay off Moore’s campaign debts.  Those debts included money that Jimmie Moore for Congress (the Moore campaign) owed to several vendors, to Moore himself and to Moore’s campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness. On Feb. 29, 2012, Moore withdrew from the race and Cavaness had prepared a list of debts owed by the Moore campaign, which they provided to Smukler, a campaign consultant for the Brady campaign.  Smukler arranged for the Moore campaign to receive $90,000 from the Brady campaign through false documents and a series of concealing pass-throughs, including the consulting firm of another Brady associate and co-conspirator, D.A. Jones.  Smukler ensured that the Brady campaign reported none of the concealed payments, which exceeded the federal contribution limits, to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  Rather, he executed the scheme by ensuring that the three installments were falsely and illegally disguised from the FEC and the public as payments for poll and consulting services.

Later, during the 2014 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s Thirteenth Congressional District, Smukler again committed federal campaign finance offenses, this time for the benefit of another client, Marjorie Margolies, a former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Smukler, a veteran of prior Margolies political campaigns, ran the Margolies campaign in 2014. 

In April 2014, during a close primary race, the Margolies campaign was running out of money that it could legally spend in the primary.  Smukler then caused the Margolies campaign to illegally spend general election funds in his attempt to win the primary election for his client.  He further lied about his illegal spending to the campaign’s lawyer.  That lawyer, in turn, unwittingly reported Smukler’s lies to the FEC in response to a complaint filed by another candidate. Additionally, Smukler caused excessive campaign contributions and illegal conduit contributions to the Margolies campaign, all of which were hidden or disguised from the campaign’s FEC filings.

“When political operatives like Kenneth Smukler engage in hidden illegal campaign finance schemes, they undermine the integrity of the electoral process,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “This is a just sentence that reflects the seriousness of these crimes.”

“In order to win at all costs, Smukler knowingly and purposefully undermined our democratic process by misusing campaign funds and lying about it,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “My Office will continue to prosecute public corruption wherever and whenever we uncover it. Now Smukler is headed to jail, and I am grateful that the Court imposed a just sentence reinforcing the fact that this kind of corruption will never be tolerated.”

On Dec. 3, 2018, a jury found Smukler guilty of one count of conspiracy, two counts of excessive campaign contributions, two counts of false statements, two counts of conduit contributions, one count of willfully causing a false statement to the FEC and one count of obstruction of justice.     

Former Public Integrity Section Trial Attorney Jonathan I. Kravis and the FBI investigated the case.  Richard C. Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Public Integrity Section, Trial Attorney Rebecca Moses of the Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prosecuted the case.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/intfinlaw/2019/05/philadelphia-area-political-consultant-and-attorney-sentenced-after-conviction-in-two-campaign-finance-schemes.html

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