An architecture firm paid a $34,800 fine in 2010 to settle allegations of illegal campaign contributions involving Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.), according to documents recently made public by the Federal Election Commission.
A former employee of the firm filed a complaint in 2009 alleging that Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects, Ltd. "unexpectedly" fired him for "lack of work." The employee claimed he was terminated due to his "skepticism" about some of his coworkers’ activities, including a February 2009 fundraiser that netted $20,650 for Reid’s campaign fund.
The employee alleged that partners at the firm had "organized an enterprise to make illegal campaign contributions to Senator Harry Reid’s senatorial campaign" and that he had "resisted the coercive effort to contribute" by telling them that he could not afford to make the recommended $1,000 contribution.
The employee, who feared he would lose his job, stated that he did not have the recommended amount in his bank account. According to the complaint, the company forwarded him the money disguised as reimbursements for business expenses.
The whistleblower alleged that this happened to others at the firm, and that individuals who were not directly employed with the company made contributions, listing Tate Synder Kimsey Architects as their employer so the firm would reach its fundraising goal.
An assistant at the firm who performed administrative tasks and planned office parties handled logistics for the fundraising event, according to a conciliation agreement reached in October 2010.
The agreement states the assistant helped make invitations, performed oversight of the guest list, hired a photographer, and worked with a catering vendor at the Wolfgang Puck Café in Las Vegas to prepare for the event. The assistant also "communicated with Reid Committee staff to ensure that the Committee received all of the contributions, and on at least one occasion, mailed a contribution check to the Committee."
The whistleblower claimed that Tate Snyder Kimsey held the fundraiser so that it would receive a government contract worth millions from the General Services Administration. The $8.3 million design contract for the "modernization of the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry" was awarded to the firm on July 24, 2009, just months after the fundraiser took place.
The firm denied that the fundraiser was held in order to receive the contract. The FEC said that they did not conduct an investigation into the allegation.
The Tate Snyder Kimsey settlement was signed on October 15, 2010. It established that some employees at the firm made campaign contributions that were later reimbursed with corporate funds. The firm agreed to pay $34,800 within 30 days to settle the campaign finance violations.
The file against Reid’s campaign committee remained open until December 2015, when the FEC voted to close it. No action was taken against the committee.
When asked why it took years for the matter to be resolved and made public, a spokesman for the FEC said that they do not comment on specific matters.
Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects and Reid’s Committee did return a request for comment on the settlement.