Ethics, integrity of lobbyist touted at Nev. trial

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Associated Press

Posted on May 25, 2013 at 1:06 AM

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Two long-time associates of a developer and high-powered lobbyist charged with making illegal campaign contributions testified Friday that he is well known for his generosity and integrity.

State Assemblyman Ira Hansen said he and defendant Harvey Whittemore were rarely on the same side of issues when Hansen lobbied the Legislature as a citizen for more than two decades.

Still, the Sparks Republican said during the federal trial that Whittemore was considered the most prominent and successful lobbyist in Nevada because people respected his opinion.

"He's always been straight-forward," Hansen said. "He's always been very generous in our community and always well-respected for helping out numerous organizations. I always found him to be absolutely a man of integrity."

Whittemore is accused of using family, friends and employees at his real estate company to effectively launder his own contributions to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Prosecutors said he bundled together nearly $150,000 for Reid's re-election campaign in 2007 by writing checks to others, who then contributed the maximum $4,600 each to the Nevada Democrat.

The defense rested its case at midday Friday without Whittemore taking the witness stand. U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks scheduled closing arguments for Tuesday to be followed by jury deliberations.

Rick Reviglio, owner of Reno-based Western Nevada Supply, testified Thursday that he got to know Whittemore well in the early 1990s when Nevada football coach Chris Ault asked Reviglio to get involved in booster efforts — something in which Whittemore had played a key role for years.

Over the years, Reviglio said, he and Whittemore have been heavily involved in a variety of charitable organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club and youth and education programs in general.

"Highest integrity, highest ethics I've ever been associated with," Reviglio told the jury.

Prosecutors say Whittemore wrote checks for $5,000 or more to a total of 29 employees of his Wingfield Nevada Group as gifts or bonuses. Within days, or in some cases on the same day, they turned around and wrote checks to Reid's campaign, authorities said.

In the case of married employees, Whittemore wrote checks for $10,000 — $9,400 of which they then contributed to Reid in two separate checks, prosecutors said.

Whittemore has said — and several of the employees have testified — that he encouraged them to give to Reid but the donations were voluntary.

Whittemore's lawyers maintain no laws were broken. Each individual Whittemore approached could have declined to participate, and each wrote their own personal check to the Friends of Harry Reid Committee, the attorneys said.

The testimony from Hansen and Reviglio was intended to help prove Whittemore routinely provided gifts and wrote big checks to family and friends, and to counter prosecution claims that a series of checks he wrote in 2007 were intended as reimbursement for money contributed to Reid's campaign.

Whittemore has pleaded not guilty to making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another, causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and making a false statement to the FBI. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

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