Powerbroker tied to Nevada Sen. Reid goes to court

A former developer and lobbyist with long ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Nevada's political elite turned himself in to federal authorities Thursday after being indicted on criminal charges involving federal campaign contributions.

Harvey Whittemore planned to plead not guilty later in the day before a federal magistrate in Reno, his lawyer, John Arrascada, told The Associated Press.

Whittemore, 55, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on four counts related to campaign contributions made in 2007 to an unnamed elected federal official.

Once a kingpin in state political circles, Whittemore made campaign contributions to numerous politicians including Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley. But records show only Reid received donations of more than $100,000 on a single day in 2007.

Prosecutors say he solicited campaign contributions from family members and employees and skirted federal election law limits by reimbursing them. He's also charged with lying to federal agencies.

Justice Department officials said Whittemore allegedly concealed the scheme from the elected official, his campaign committee and the Federal Election Commission.

If convicted, Whittemore faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

"Mr. Whittemore allegedly used his family members and employees as conduits to make illegal contributions to the campaign committee of an elected member of Congress," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a written statement.

Whittemore also "attempted to conceal his crimes by lying to the FBI," he said.

In 2007, federal election law limited campaign contributions to $4,600 from an individual and $9,200 from a couple. The law also prohibits making contributions in another person's name to hide the identity of the true donor.

Prosecutors allege Whittemore met with the politician in February 2007 and agreed to try to raise $150,000 for the official's campaign committee.

Reid had become the Senate majority leader several weeks before, after Democrats won the upper chamber majority in 2006.

The following month, Whittemore solicited employees, family members and their spouses to make maximum campaign donations and reimbursed them with personal checks and wire transfers, according to the indictment.

On March 28, 2007, authorities allege that a Whittemore employee transmitted $138,000 in contributions to the elected official's campaign committee. Two weeks later, the campaign committee "unknowingly filed false reports with the FEC stating that the conduits had made contributions, when in fact, Whittemore had made them," prosecutors said.