A Nevada powerbroker who headed a billion-dollar real estate company and pulled the strings of state politics as a prominent lobbyist for more than a decade was convicted Wednesday of making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
Harvey Whittemore, 59, could face up to 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts tied to nearly $150,000 illegally funneled to Reid's re-election campaign in 2007.
Reid said he was unaware of any potential problems with the money he received. "I received $25 million. He raised $150,000," Reid previously told the Las Vegas Sun.
Whittemore is reportedly one the closest friends of Senator Harry Reid, who became Senate majority leader after the fall 2008 elections, and both men have characterized their relationship as close and decades long.
Whittemore, his wife, and company have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Reid's election campaigns and to Reid's leadership fund, which has been used to aid Reid's allies and is said to have helped Reid attain his leadership position.
Whittemore has also funded political campaigns of two of Reid's sons. All four Reid sons have at one time been employed by Whittemore's law firm. According to the Los Angeles Times, Whittemore helped advance the careers of two sons, including Leif Reid, Whittemore's personal attorney. Responding to allegations of favoritism, Reid's office stated that the Senator's behavior had been "legal, proper and appropriate".
In 1998, Harry Reid and John Ensign, Nevada's past Republican Senator, co-sponsored legislation removing restrictions to the sale of federal wilderness lands in Nevada. In 2002, Reid introduced "The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002", reclassifying land on or abutting Coyote Springs, moving a federal easement off Coyote Springs land and allowing Whittemore to make a land swap at no cost.
Defense lawyer Dominic Gentile said Whittemore's motive was to help re-elect Reid and other Congress members who helped secure federal funding for a university medical research center that he and his wife helped found in 2010. Whittemore, whose daughter, Andrea Whittemore-Goad, is a chronic fatigue syndrome patient, founded the research center known as the Whittemore Peterson Institute to investigate the condition.
The prosecutor wouldn't comment on why Harry Reid wasn't called as a witness, or whether the case involving Whittemore has been completely closed.