A former campaign finance manager and political consultant was sentenced today in the Eastern District of Virginia to 24 months for coordinating $325,000 in federal election campaign contributions by a political action committee (PAC) to a congressional campaign committee. This is the first U.S. prosecution based on the coordination of campaign contributions between political committees.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Leonard of the FBI Washington, D.C., Field Office’s Criminal Division made the announcement.
“The significant prison sentence imposed on Tyler Harber should cause other political operatives to think twice about circumventing laws that promote transparency in federal elections,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “As the first conviction for illegal campaign coordination, this case stands as an important step forward in the criminal enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. Illegal campaign coordination can be difficult to detect, which is why we strongly encourage party or campaign insiders to come forward and blow the whistle.”
“Campaign finance laws exist to guard against illegal activity such as coordinated campaign contributions,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “The citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia can rely on this office enforce federal campaign finance law.”
“As the 2016 election gears up, there may be others, similar to Mr. Harber, who may view campaigns as a venue to misappropriate funds,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Leonard. “With millions of dollars in play, donors should be aware of how their money will be spent prior to making a donation to a super Pac to ensure that their contributions are being legally expended.”
Tyler Eugene Harber, 34, of Alexandria, Virginia, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady to one count of coordinated federal election contributions and one count of making false statements to the FBI.
Harber was the campaign manager and general political consultant for a candidate for Congress in the November 2012 general election. At the same time, Harber participated in the creation and operation of a PAC, which, unlike the campaign of an individual candidate, may raise and spend money in unlimited amounts from otherwise prohibited sources to influence federal elections so long as it does not coordinate expenditures with a federal campaign.
In connection with his guilty plea, Harber admitted, among other things, that he caused $325,000 in coordinated contributions by directing the PAC to purchase political advertising opposing a rival candidate. Harber admitted that he knew this coordination of expenditures was unlawful.
Harber admitted that he used an alias and other means to deflect inquiries by a political party official. He also admitted that he told multiple lies when interviewed by the FBI concerning his activities.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office’s Northern Virginia Resident Agency. The case is being prosecuted by Director Richard C. Pilger of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section Election Crimes Branch and Chief Mark D. Lytle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit.