Tyler Harber, a GOP campaign operative, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegal coordination of federal campaign contributions in the Justice Department's first criminal prosecution of that kind.
The 34-year-old admitted to starting a super PAC he later directed to spend $325,000 to support a candidate for whom he simultaneously served as a campaign manager. It's an activity prohibited by federal campaign finance law.
The case stems from a 2012 House contest in Virginia. Harber served as campaign manager for Chris Perkins, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly in the 11th District, located in the northern Virginia suburbs. Perkins lost to Connolly by a 26-point margin.
Harber also admitted to asking a donor who had contributed the maximum individual contribution to Perkins' campaign committee to donate to the super PAC. There are no federal contribution limits for super PACs.
“Campaign finance laws exist to guard against illegal activity such as coordinated campaign contributions,” U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente said in a DOJ news release. “The citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia can rely this office enforce federal campaign finance law.”
According to the DOJ, Harber admitted he “knew the coordination of expenditures was an unlawful means of contributing money to a campaign committee.”
“He further admitted that he used an alias and other means to conceal his action from inquiries by an official of the same political party as Harber’s candidate," according to the release.
In addition to pleading guilty to one count of illegal campaign contributions, Harber also pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents.
Each count carries a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to a DOJ aide. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 5.
Harber, a Tennessee native, has worked for a wide array of Republican elected officials and GOP campaign consulting firms. His former clients include Sen. James Lankford’s successful election in Oklahoma in 2014. Harber briefly worked for Public Opinion Strategies, a top Republican polling firm, earlier in his career.
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