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Harvey Whittemore surrenders at federal prison camp

Former power broker Harvey Whittemore surrendered Wednesday at a federal prison camp in Lompoc, Calif., to start serving a two-year sentence for breaking campaign contributions laws.

His lawyers said he turned himself in before a court-ordered noon deadline.

A Reno jury last year found Whittemore guilty of funneling $133,400 in unlawful contributions to the campaign of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid wasn’t accused of wrongdoing in the case.

“Harvey Whittemore made a conscious and willful choice to violate federal elections laws in order to increase his own power and influence at the expense of the voting public and the election process,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden said Wednesday following Whittemore’s surrender.

Whittemore, 61, an attorney and onetime influential lobbyist, was convicted of giving money to 29 family members and employees of his former company, Wingfield Nevada Group, and then using them as “conduits” for contributions to Reid’s 2007 re-election committee to skirt federal campaign laws.

Federal prosecutors alleged at the trial that Whittemore met with Reid at an upscale restaurant on the Strip in February 2007 and promised to raise $150,000 for the senator’s re-election campaign.

Whittemore hatched the scheme days before the March 31, 2007, campaign contribution deadline without Reid’s knowledge in an attempt to fulfill his promise to the senator, one of the most powerful members of Congress, prosecutors alleged.

At the time, Whittemore was developing Coyote Springs, a master-planned community 50 miles from Las Vegas on the Lincoln and Clark county line, and needed congressional help to overcome government hurdles.

The Reno jury found Whittemore guilty of three felony counts: making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week denied Whittemore’s bid to remain free while he appeals his conviction.

Oral arguments on the appeal are set for Oct. 6 in San Francisco.

Whittemore’s lead defense lawyer, Dominic Gentile, has argued that Whittemore did not “knowingly” violate campaign contribution laws and did nothing to hide his efforts to raise money for Reid.

The Nevada Supreme Court late last year temporarily suspended Whittemore’s license to practice law as a result of his conviction.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.

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