DoJ: House Dem may face wire fraud, obstruction, conspiracy charges from 2012 payoff

After an avalanche of perversion, this old-fashioned political corruption scandal might seem relatively refreshing. An FBI probe into campaign-finance corruption has circled ever closer to Rep. Bob Brady, the Pennsylvania Democrat who got served with a search warrant earlier this month. The Department of Justice has Brady in its targets over a scheme to pay off a fellow Democrat to get him out of a primary — a scheme that already has one man pleading guilty to corruption:

The F.B.I. is investigating whether Representative Robert A. Brady of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, illegally paid a political opponent $90,000 to drop out of a 2012 primary race, court documents show. …

According to the court papers, Mr. Moore, who is cooperating with the government, told law enforcement officials that he attended a meeting in February 2012 with Mr. Brady arranged by W. Wilson Goode Sr., the former mayor of Philadelphia. At that meeting, Mr. Moore said, Mr. Brady agreed to pay $90,000 toward Mr. Moore’s campaign debts, in exchange for Mr. Moore’s agreement to drop out of the race.

“In that conversation, Brady and Moore agreed and understood that the payment from Brady’s campaign to Moore’s campaign would be disguised, and the deception would include hiding at least some of the Bob Brady for Congress campaign funds as the purchase of the aforementioned poll,” the affidavit stated.

Despite the guilty plea and the indictments, this scandal has largely flown under the radar. Given the lurid nature of scandals these days, it’s no small wonder, but that’s in part because prosecutors have largely kept the case under wraps. They told a federal judge at the beginning of the month that there’s no longer a need for secrecy, which suggests that the probe is coming to an end, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeremy Roebuck reports. The court documents lay out what the DoJ has in mind for Brady:

Agents and prosecutors filed the affidavit to persuade a judge to approve a search of [email protected], a personal email account used by Brady. It also lays out the potential charges that Brady might face should he be indicted – a list that includes wire fraud, lying to the FBI and making an illegal campaign contribution.

“The investigation has uncovered evidence which indicates that Brady, Smukler and Jones utilized Smukler’s and D.A. Jones’ corporations to conceal payments from Brady’s campaign … for Moore to withdraw from the 2012 Democratic primary race,” FBI Special Agent Jonathan R. Szeliga wrote. …

In asking the judge to unseal the affidavit last week – along with similar warrants filed for email accounts associated with Moore, Smukler and Jones – Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson said that need for secrecy is no longer necessary.

“The sealing aimed to protect the ongoing criminal investigation,” he wrote in a motion filed Thursday. “Some of the bases for the application to seal are no longer existent.”

That appears to be a big warning flare to Brady. Roebuck also reports that Brady has agreed to extend the statute of limitations on the charges at hand while the investigation progressed, perhaps in part to keep the probe under wraps. The latest extension expires this week, Roebuck notes, and with the investigation now out in public, Brady has no reason to keep agreeing to extensions. The political damage has been done, more or less, unless the DoJ comes up with enough to indict him. It’s fish-or-cut-bait time for prosecutors, so their search warrant had better have come up with enough evidence to get an indictment. Otherwise, the shot clock is going to expire, and they’ll have to satisfy themselves with lesser players.

Can prosecutors win a conviction on such charges? After the mistrial in the Robert Menendez case, the DoJ has to know that a hometown jury will need a smoking gun to win at trial. Candidates at all levels routinely make deals with rivals to cover debts in exchange for their endorsement after they withdraw, but no one looks too closely at the timing. Charges that fall solely on that agreement probably won’t stick. If Brady and his team conspired to cover up the source of the funds through wire fraud and misrepresentation and then lied about it to investigators, though, that’s a different kettle of fish. The DoJ should have no problem prosecuting that kind of case, although they’ll need to put Brady into the transactions as an active participant to win against him.

It will be a tense holiday weekend for Brady. At least he can take some comfort in the fact that his colleagues will rally around him as they did with Menendez. Corruption-based scandals seem quaint these days, no?

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