Philadelphia-area political consultant Kenneth Smukler, who already faces charges related to allegedly paying off U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s opponent in the 2012 congressional primary to drop out of the race, is now being accused by federal authorities of making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations to a campaign in a different election and obstructing a Federal Election Commission investigation.
The superseding indictment issued Tuesday afternoon by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia restated the original charges against Smukler involving a $90,000 payment to Brady’s opponent, former Philadelphia Judge Jimmie Moore, and added new charges alleging that Smukler used his companies to inject cash into a losing candidate’s campaign in the 2014 Democratic congressional primary, while also having false financial reports filed to the FEC to hide the illicit payments made to the campaign.
The indictment identified the candidate only as “candidate C.” However, in 2014 Smukler served as campaign adviser to Marjorie Margolies, an ex-broadcaster who briefly served as the congresswoman to Pennsylvania’s 13th District from 1993 to 1995 and sought to reclaim the seat in 2014. Margolies and two other candidates lost that election to U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle.
Margolies has not been charged with a crime. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, nor did Smukler’s attorney, Brian McMonagle. Information on Smukler’s plea is not yet available.
According to the indictment, the campaign was running out of money to pay for primary election expenses, but Smukler directed the campaign treasurer to continue purchasing goods and services. Prosecutors allege Smukler used his companies, Black and Blue Media and InfoVoter Technologies, to funnel money to the campaign while it was active and also after it had lost the election in order to pay off its debts. The alleged contributions exceeded the limits set by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 for individual donors during a single election cycle, the indictment said.
Additionally, the indictment alleged Smukler falsely told Margolies’ campaign treasurer that a $78,000 contribution came from a separate media account when in fact it was funded by one of his associates.
Prosecutors also claimed that in order to conceal the budget shortfall after the election, Smukler lied to the campaign about using his companies as a pass-through to funnel $150,000 in illegal contributions into the campaign coffers. He allegedly told the treasurer the money was made up of refunds from cash that had been escrowed for election expenses when in reality it came from his associates.
Prosecutors alleged that Smukler caused the campaign to report to the FEC that the payments were refunds, which led to the dismissal of an FEC complaint against the campaign.
“After the FEC realized that Smukler’s company InfoVoter had ‘refunded’ to Candidate C 2014 approximately $18,000 more than the campaign had paid InfoVoter in the first place, Smukler caused Candidate C to make a conduit contribution of funds from Black and Blue to the campaign so that the campaign could afford to repay InfoVoter the excess ‘refund’ of $18,000,” the indictment said.
The indictment alleged that Smukler wrote a $25,000 check from Black and Blue to Margolies, later instructing her to transfer $23,750 of that money from her personal bank account to an account associated with her campaign, erasing the negative balance in the campaign account caused by the $18,000 payment.
“On or about Oct. 15, 2015, Smukler caused [the campaign] to file a report with the FEC falsely stating that the $23,750 payment was a loan from Candidate C when in fact the payment was an unlawful campaign contribution from Black and Blue funneled through Candidate C,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors further alleged that Smukler had political consultant Don D.A. Jones, who pleaded guilty for his involvement in the alleged Moore payoff scheme, make a conduit contribution to Margolies through InfoVoter that Smukler would later refund to Jones.
Smukler was first indicted Oct. 24. While the case against Smukler, who pleaded not guilty to the initial charges, is ongoing, the investigation has netted guilty pleas from Jones, Moore and Moore’s former campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness. It is not clear how these guilty pleas might affect the case against Smukler. Brady was never charged and prosecutors have since missed their window to indict him. His lawyer, James Eisenhower of Dilworth Paxson, has consistently maintained the congressman is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Authorities said Moore lied about a $25,000 payment from Brady’s campaign to his consulting firm, which he then funneled to his campaign manager’s company to later pay Moore.
Jones and Smukler were charged with conspiracy, causing unlawful campaign contributions, causing the filing of false reports to the Federal Election Commission and causing false statements to the Federal Election Commission.
In July, Cavaness pleaded guilty to covering up the alleged scheme to divert money from Brady’s campaign funds to pay Moore. Moore pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the FEC.
Moore withdrew from the race in February 2012 after the alleged agreement was struck to pay Moore $90,000, according to prosecutors. The law does not allow one campaign to contribute more than $2,000 to another during a primary election.
Moore instructed Cavaness to create a company whose only purpose was to receive the funds. Those payments, according to the prosecutors, were routed through Voter Link Data Systems and D. Jones & Associates, the political consulting companies run by Smukler and Jones.