Former Brady aide on trial for alleged role in scheme to conceal illegal campaign contributions

Steve Tawa
November 15, 2018 - 5:21 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A long-time political strategist with ties to Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady is now on trial for his alleged involvement in an illegal campaign contribution scheme. Testimony is underway. 

Assistant US Attorney Eric Gibson told jurors Ken Smukler was "an experienced, savvy political operative" who "deliberated flouted campaign spending rules," by orchestrating what he called "an elaborate deception to cover his tracks."

Smukler is accused of participating in a scheme in the 2012 Democratic primary to disguise illegal campaign contributions, totaling $90,000, on behalf of Congressman Brady, to persuade Brady's challenger to drop out. That former candidate, Jimmie Moore, pleaded guilty to filing a false campaign report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Moore's campaign manager,  Carolyn Cavaness, also pleaded guilty to a single charge of making a false statement in a federal proceeding. A second top political aide to Brady, Donald Jones, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

They're expected to testify in an attempt to get reduced sentences.

Smukler is also charged with filing false financial reports to hide illegal donations to the campaign of former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies in her failed attempt in 2014 to reclaim the seat. She was not charged. Margolies is also expected to testify.

Smukler denies the charges. Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle contends the feds case was too weak to bring to trial. In his open, McMonagle told jurors Smukler "does not believe now and has never believed that Congressman Brady was asking him to do anything illegal." He says Smukler "never intended to commit a crime, not for a day, an hour or a minute." McMonagle says Smukler went out of his way, taking extra steps to comply with election law in the Margolis race. Then, he scowled at federal prosecutors and FBI Agents, and said "no good deed goes unpunished."

Smukler is a well-seasoned political consultant and communications specialist who often opined to the media over the last several decades on current affairs in the local political scene.

Brady, who has always denied wrongdoing, was under intense federal scrutiny, but the statute of limitations expired earlier this year on a nearly all of the charges that Brady may have faced. As that became known, the 11-term Congressman, who is also the Chairman of the Democratic City Committee, announced he would not seek reelection. The government has never commented publicly on why Brady was never charged.