House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is defending Rep. Bob Brady amid a federal probe into allegations his campaign illegally paid a primary challenger to drop out in 2012.
The investigation came to light this week after Carolyn Cavaness, a former campaign manager and fiancé of Jimmie Moore, Brady’s 2012 challenger, pleaded guilty for her role in helping illegally transfer $90,000 from the lawmaker’s campaign coffers to Moore.
Pelosi said she has confidence in Brady, who has served in the chamber for nearly two decades and is the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee.
“I know that Congressman Brady has fully cooperated with authorities and he has done nothing wrong,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday.
Pelosi said she hasn’t talked to Brady about the investigation, which was revealed earlier this week. Brady, a central figure in Pennsylvania politics who has led the Philadelphia Democratic Party for 30 years, has denied any wrongdoing in the case through his attorney.
Neither Brady nor Moore have been charged in the case. But prosecutors have indicated they think Brady attempted to influence at least one witness in the case. The Philadelphia Inquirer has identified that witness as former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode.
"We categorically deny any allegation that the congressman tried to influence a witness. We think it’s ludicrous," James Eisenhower, Brady’s attorney, told POLITICO.
Jeffrey Miller, attorney for Moore, also denied any wrongdoing on his client’s part. "I don’t think Moore, my client, committed a crime," Miller said.
Cavaness, appearing in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia Tuesday, pleaded guilty to one charge of making a false statement in a federal proceeding.
Cavaness said she helped create a company to funnel the money and falsified Federal Election Committee reports to hide the payments, which far exceed the $2,000 cap one candidate is allowed to give another in a primary. Moore is a former municipal court judge in Philadelphia.
Brady has not been charged with a crime but his lawyer has pushed back on the idea that the lawmaker was involved in any kind of illegal scheme, saying the funds were used on legitimate expenses, including to purchase a one-year-old poll the Moore campaign had commissioned.
"The congressman authorized his campaign to purchase an extensive poll that the Moore campaign had done not just on the race but on the district and the attitude toward the congressman by various demographic groups," Eisenhower told POLITICO.
"We think that’s what the government is confused about here. They’re looking at the campaign contribution limits. … But that’s not the law when you purchase an asset," he added, referencing the $2,000 cap.
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported the purchase of the poll.
Assistant U.S. attorney Eric Gibson rebuts Brady’s explanation in Cavaness’ plea agreement, unsealed Wednesday, saying the lawmaker’s campaign had no need to buy the poll in 2012 since it was outdated and Moore had already dropped out of the race at that time.
In addition, Brady had already been given an informal copy of the poll in 2011. His campaign paid $65,000 for the poll, which Moore’s campaign commissioned for only $32,000, according to Gibson. Neither Brady nor Moore are named in the plea agreement, referred to only as Candidate A and Candidate B.
Moore’s attorney said Brady’s campaign agreed to pay off his client’s debts after Brady and Moore met in February 2012 but that there was nothing illegal in the transaction.
"The agreement was that they would pay off [Moore’s] debts, which came to approximately $90,000, all legitimate debts. And the money was transferred from Brady to the people that were owed the money," Miller said.
"If they were trying to conceal through a straw party the transfer of the funds, which they weren’t, the last thing in the world they would’ve done was create a corporation for the payment of money."
Moore later told Cavaness that Brady had also offered to secure jobs for the two of them during the candidates’ meeting, according to the plea document.
The remaining portion of the $90,000 – $25,000 – was paid from Brady’s campaign to Cavaness for consulting work the prosecutor says she never performed.
“The defendant took these actions knowing and intending that their purpose was to conceal the fact that [Brady’s] campaign committee had given [Moore] $90,000 in exchange for [Moore’s] agreement to withdraw from the 2012 primary,” Gibson wrote.
Eisenhower said Brady "really wouldn’t know" if Cavaness performed the work she was hired to do, saying the details of her employment were handled by others involved with the campaign.
Cavaness and Moore used about $40,000 of the funds to pay back campaign debts and reimburse personal loans, while the rest was spent on “personal expenses,” according to Gibson. It is unclear what, if anything, happens next in the case directly involving Brady and Moore.
“The status of the matter right now is what I would call, to use the cliché of the year, up in the air. I don’t think the government is sure what they’re going to do,” Miller said, noting he spoke to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Brady’s attorney on Thursday.
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.