February 17, 2015

Former U.S. Sen campaign staffer pleads guilty to 2012 campaign finance violation


corruptionA campaign staffer for a 2014 U.S. Senate campaign in New Mexico pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation during a previous campaign in Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the guilty plea by Tyler Harber last week. In addition to one count of coordinated federal election contributions, Harber pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI.

Harber used an alias to run a Super PAC in addition to working on a congressional campaign in 2012.

His transgressions happened before David Clements had began his campaign for U.S. Senate in New Mexico. The violations happened during his time as campaign manager for Chris Perkins, a Republican from Virginia in the 2012 election cycle.

“While working as the campaign manager for Chris Perkins, a Virginia Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Gerry Connolly, D, in 2012, Harber was also directing a super PAC that supported Perkins and funneling money to himself and a family member, among other violations,” the Sunlight Foundation wrote.

“The Department of Justice is fully committed to addressing the threat posed to the integrity of federal primary and general elections by coordinated campaign contributions, and will aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in the statement announcing the plea.

Harber admitted that he solicited contributions for a Super PAC he ran, under the alias, to campaign contributors who had already made the maximum legal campaign donation to Perkins.

Harber served on the staff of Clements’ campaign for U.S. Senate last year.

Clements ran as a libertarian Republican and lost to Allen Weh in the Republican primary. Clements was an outsider, though he was the chairman of the Dona Ana County Republican Party, and was outspent massively by Weh.

Other candidates that employed Harber were similarly long-shot candidates.

From the DOJ, here is exactly what Harber pleaded guilty to:

Harber admitted, among other things, that he made and directed coordinated expenditures by the PAC to influence the election with $325,000 of political advertising opposing a rival candidate. The coordination of expenditures made them illegal campaign contributions to the authorized committee of Harber’s candidate, and Harber admitted that he knew this 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.

Harber further admitted that he told multiple lies when interviewed by the FBI concerning his activities.

Harber was blasted by Public Opinion Strategies after he left the firm for overstating his resume.

POS was the pollster for Gov. Susana Martinez’s two successful gubernatorial campaigns. Nicole McCleskey, the wife of Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey, is currently a partner at the company.