HARRISBURG - Former Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert M. McCord pleaded guilty
before a federal judge Tuesday to two counts of attempted extortion, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced.
Each count is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $250,000. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III accepted the guilty plea and scheduled a pre-sentence conference for June 29.
McCord admitted that he attempted to extort campaign contributions from a law firm and a property management company while he was running for governor by threatening economic harm to the potential donors if they failed to make sufficient campaign contributions. In particular, McCord threatened to use his position as state treasurer to interfere with the business that the law firm and property management firm were conducting with the State if they did not make the contributions.
According to the statement of facts, McCord lent his primary gubernatorial campaign $2 million in April while trailing in the polls. Between April 18 and May 6, McCord made several phone calls to a Philadelphia-based law firm seeking contributions.
One managing partner agreed to a $5,000 donation, but McCord allegedly threatened economic harm if they did not increase the contribution to $25,000.
One of the law firm’s attorneys is also a neighbor of McCord’s, according to the court documents, and was approached several times about asking the managing partners to donate more funds to the campaign.
McCord allegedly acknowledged that the managing partners backed incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, but advised that he still held a position of power regardless of the primary results.
“If you are not going to hedge your bet, don’t think that I am so stupid that I am not going to read you the riot act down the road,” McCord allegedly said to the attorney.
McCord also offered strategies to allow the firm to make the contributions without contradicting its public support for Corbett, such as making the donation through the attorney’s wife, it was alleged.
He also instructed the attorney on how to persuade the managing partner, laying out a scenario in which the attorney would say that the state treasurer could disrupt any business the firm had with the state government, it was alleged.
A similar threat was made to a property management company in Western Pennsylvania, according to the court papers. The company had enjoyed numerous incentives and benefits from the state government while engaged in interstate commerce, benefits that McCord threatened to deny if the company did not make substantial donations to his campaign, it was alleged.
Using a campaign bundler as the liaison, McCord allegedly expressed his disappointment that the company had not followed through on promised contributions, promising to make it harder for the company to receive another state benefit.