As many of you may have seen, longtime Nevada lobbyist and lawyer Harvey Whittemore was indicted today by a federal grand jury on charges that he made illegal campaign contributions and lied to the FBI. In particular, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid received well over six-figures in campaign contributions from Whittemore and his family members in recent years.
But as many of you will also recall, as the controversy around Whittemore built in recent months, several elected officials stepped forward and announced they would voluntarily, and immediately, give away Whittemore campaign contributions. Senator Dean Heller for example, announced donations to three Nevada charities — The Children’s Cabinet, the Nevada Statewide Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, and Always Lost, a meditation on war exhibit.
Senate Democratic candidate and U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, was not among those officials.
In fact, this was just another example of Congresswoman Berkley saying one thing, and then doing another. After initially telling the Nevada media that she was “disposing” of the almost $12,000 she received from Harvey Whittemore, her campaign admitted later that she was in fact holding onto them. But today, upon hearing the news that Mr. Whittemore had been indicted by the federal government, Berkley is claiming she really will return the contributions.
If you are reporting on today’s indictment, and Berkley’s decision to shed Whittemore’s campaign contributions, please consider the following statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC):
“Given the fact that Congresswoman Berkley is currently under investigation herself, perhaps she’s held a special level of sympathy for her friend Mr. Whittemore in recent months. But elected officials should always hold themselves to a higher standard and it’s remarkable that it took an actual federal indictment for the Congresswoman to pry herself free of these campaign contributions. Let’s hope this time, Congresswoman Berkley finally does the right thing and gives this money away as she first promised to do months ago.”
- Jahan Wilcox, NRSC Press Secretary
This is what Shelley Berkley said:
- “We have identified the contributions and we are disposing of them,” Berkley said. “I’m not sure if we gave them to a charity or to some other organization but we decided I don’t need any taint on the contributions to my campaign. So those contributions are no longer on my books.” (Erin Breen, “Political Powerbroker Embroiled in Legal Battle,” KTVN Channel 2)
Here’s what Shelley Berkley did:
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, is holding on to the $11,900 she received for now.
When the Whittemore scandal broke, Berkley spokesman Eric Koch said: “The campaign will be disposing of contributions from Mr. Whittemore and his family.”
“When asked why no disbursements of that nature appeared on her first-quarter financial report, Koch referred the question to Zac Petkanas, spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party. Berkley’s report lists eight campaign contribution refunds, but none to Whittemore or anyone associated with him.
“Petkanas wrote in an email that “the contributions you are referring to are being held in escrow.” When asked why, he sent a copy of the Code of Federal Regulations that deals with receipts and disbursements. He highlighted one section that states if a contribution appears to be illegal, it can’t be deposited into the campaign account and must be placed in a separate account until it is determined to be legal.
“Petkanas said they would hold the money in escrow until the contributions are found to be legal or illegal. (Martha Bellisle, “Reid among Nevada officials holding on to Whittemore-related money, Reno Gazette-Journal, April 21, 2012)