A prominent Nevada lobbyist convicted of making illegal contributions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's 2010 re-election campaign is preparing to ask the Supreme Court to revisit campaign finance limits, following a Monday federal appeals court decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the convictions of F. Harvey Whittemore, 62, of Reno, Nev., for two counts of violating federal campaign finance law, and one count of causing a materially false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission. Reid was not accused of any wrongdoing in the case, though the Nevada Democrat was required to amend his campaign finance reports. A three-judge panel rejected Whittemore's appeal, including an argument that the individual contribution limits in the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act violate the First Amendment. His attorneys filed their brief on the same day as the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, striking down aggregate campaign contribution limits. Now, they want to take Whittemore's case to the high court.
Attorney Dominic Gentile, of Las Vegas-based Gordon Silver, said asking the Supreme Court to revisit campaign finance laws had been "part of our overall game plan from the very beginning," though he told CQ Roll Call that the defense team "hoped not to have to do it." Individual contribution limits, Gentile said, are "fictions."
Reid pitted himself against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year, in a fight on campaign spending limits . Ideologically, Whittemore sides with the Kentucky Republican, who takes an expansive view of the First Amendment regarding campaign finance. Asked about the contrast, Gentile said his client has "historically been an opponent" of campaign spending restrictions.
According to evidence presented at trial, Whittemore was aware of the strict limits on individual federal campaign contributions when he devised a scheme to unlawfully funnel more than $130,000 of his own money through approximately 29 family members, employees and their spouses to Reid's campaign committee. Prosecutors said Whittemore concealed the scheme from the FEC, the senator, and the senator’s campaign committee.
Whittemore was sentenced on Sept. 30, 2013, to two years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Related: Reid Contributor Hopes to Toss Remaining Campaign Finance Limits Supreme Court Rejects Aggregate Contribution Limits The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.