Harvey Whittemore, convicted of contributing more than $100,000 illegally to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), is asking for leniency, claiming ignorance that his actions were illegal.
Whittemore was found guilty on three counts of illegally using his family and employees as conduits for his contributions to Reid in 2007.
Whittemore, a former lobbyist and land developer, is a longtime friend of Reid and a major Democratic power-player in Nevada.
He became the target of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe for making "conduit contributions": indirect payments in which an individual asks a friend or family member to make a donation in return for reimbursement.
Records show that Whittemore’s wife, sister, five children, and some spouses of those children were major contributors to Democratic candidates. More than two dozen employees of Whittemore’s land development firm made contributions to Reid on the same day.
Lawyers representing Whittemore asked a Nevada State Bar disciplinary panel for leniency on Friday claiming that "he did not know his actions were illegal."
"The bottom line is, to what extent should we discipline an attorney who, at the time, did not believe what he was doing was a crime," said John Echeverria, who is representing Whittemore.
This is not a new argument for Whittemore, who claimed ignorance of the law during his original testimony.
Whittimore said he was approached by Reid, who asked him to raise $150,000, and that "he studied the law and decided that he could legally take out a loan, distribute the funds as gifts, and ask the recipients to support Reid’s campaign."
Assistant Nevada Bar counsel Patrick King dismissed the suggestion that Whittemore’s alleged ignorance should play no part in the disciplinary hearing.
"Any argument that would suggest that he is not guilty is not appropriate," King said. "His conduct, his intent, his motives don’t play a role in that. The only issue for this panel is what is the appropriate discipline for someone who has committed these three felonies."