Two Brady associates charged in probe of paying off political rival’s campaign debts

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U.S. Rep. Bob Brady

An associate of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady has pleaded guilty to lying in the probe of a $90,000 payment from Brady's campaign funds to a political rival. Brady says he has done nothing wrong. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A federal grand jury has charged two political consultants associated with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady with campaign finance violations

The charges come in the investigation into allegations that Brady, a Philadelphia Democrat, paid a challenger to drop out of the 2012 primary election.

Federal prosecutors have asserted in court filings that Brady met with his 2012 primary challenger, former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore,  and struck a deal to get Moore out of the race.

Brady’s campaign fund would pay $90,000 to retire Moore’s campaign debts, and because a payment that size would violate federal campaign law, prosecutors said, the transaction would be disguised as payments to two political consultants who worked for Brady.

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Those consultants, Ken Smukler and Donald (known as “D.A.” in political circles) Jones, both longtime Brady lieutenants, are charged with conspiring to cause the filing of false campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission.

Two others — Moore and his former campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness — have pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in the investigation.

Brady, 72, has not been charged.

Circle tightening around Brady?

Brady’s attorney, Jim Eisenhower, said in a phone interview the congressman has cooperated in the investigation and has done nothing wrong.

“There’s no allegation that the congressman did anything illegal here,” Eisenhower said. “He’s always acknowledged that he agreed to help pay some of Judge Moore’s campaign debts … It was a generous gesture on the part of the congressman to help a vanquished opponent.”

Eisenhower has said repeatedly that Moore had already decided to withdraw from the race, and that Brady didn’t offer the financial help to get him out.

It’s not clear it would be illegal for Brady to have offered a financial inducement to get Moore out. But prosecutors say the parties’ efforts to disguise Brady’s payments as legitimate campaign expenses led to the campaign finance violations.

Based on Moore’s guilty plea, it appears he’s prepared to testify that Brady did offer the $90,000 as part of a deal to secure his withdrawal, and that Brady understood the transaction would be disguised in campaign finance reports.

But unless Smukler and Jones are prepared to testify that Brady told them to obscure the payments with phony transactions, it may be hard to tie Brady directly to the alleged reporting violations.

Eisenhower said Brady has full confidence in Smukler and Jones, and that Brady wasn’t involved in the details of the payments.

“The congressman doesn’t really know the details of these transactions,” Eisenhower said.

Prosecutors filed multiple charges against Smukler and Jones, while Moore and Cavaness, who’ve agreed to cooperate in the case, were allowed to plead to one count each of reporting violations.

Neither Smukler nor Jones would comment on the charges, but Jones’ attorney, Robert Tremble, said his client is innocent.

“It’s our firm view that he’s engaged in absolutely no criminal activity whatsoever,” Tremble said, “and I think once this all shakes out, he will be vindicated.”

There’s no indication that Jones or Smukler is prepared to help prosecutors build a case against Brady.

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