Whittemore indicted

Looking for tips? At Sundance Books, Harvey Whittemore purchased a John Grisham legal novel.

Looking for tips? At Sundance Books, Harvey Whittemore purchased a John Grisham legal novel.

Once-powerful lobbyist and real estate developer Harvey Whittemore has been indicted on federal campaign finance charges and for supposedly lying to federal officials.

Whittemore surrendered and pleaded not guilty before a U.S. magistrate.

When the indictment came down Wednesday, a warrant was issued for Whittemore’s arrest. This may have been an effort by prosecutors to portray Whittemore negatively in the public eye, because a summons is the normal procedure in these kinds of cases.

Whittemore declined comment but Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer issued a statement claiming that the longtime lobbyist used family members and associates “as conduits to make illegal contributions to the campaign committee of an elected member of Congress”—presumably U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

(Breuer is under fire himself for allegedly misleading Congress about wiretaps in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms scandal that may have resulted in guns reaching Mexican drug cartels. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said last week that Breuer should resign.)

Whittemore has suffered major financial reverses in recent years as a result of the housing collapse and the recession. His lobbying activities have been limited at recent state legislative sessions, even before hard times, because he was concentrating more on his career as a developer. At last year’s Legislature, in contrast with his usual long list of lobbying clients, he registered only to represent his own law practice.

This appears to be the first indictment of a Nevada lobbyist since former Boston Celtics and Ebbets Field owner Marvin Kratter was arrested for allegedly trying to bribe Assemblymember Lloyd Mann at the 1979 Nevada Legislature. Also arrested was Kratter associate Gerry Zobrist. Kratter, who successfully lobbied the Legislature to make the alleged youth drug procaine hydrochloride (AKA Gerovital) legal, was acquitted at trial. Though the Legislature approved legalization of the substance, it remains illegal under federal law.

This criminal indictment against Whittemore is one of a half dozen legal actions against him. The others are civil suits.