Jury Convicts Candidate's Father of Breaking Federal Law
The father of Kentucky's secretary of state was convicted Thursday of orchestrating a scheme to funnel illegal contributions to his daughter's failed 2014 U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Mitch McConnell.
A jury deliberated about two hours following a monthlong trial on charges that Democratic stalwart Jerry Lundergan broke federal law by directing more than $200,000 in illegal corporate contributions to benefit Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign. Grimes, once seen as a rising Democratic star, is in her second term as Kentucky's secretary of state.
A co-defendant, veteran Democratic consultant Dale Emmons, also was convicted. Both men face potentially lengthy prison sentences.
Lundergan's attorney, J. Guthrie True, told reporters afterward that Lundergan will appeal. Emmons' attorney didn't immediately comment.
Lundergan was found guilty of all 10 counts he faced and Emmons was convicted on all six of his counts.
Grimes was in the courtroom when the verdicts were read. Her father remained stoic for the verdict.
The trial was followed closely by political insiders in Kentucky. It exposed some of the struggles and rivalries within Democratic ranks and Grimes' campaign as she failed to topple McConnell, now the Senate majority leader and the nation's most powerful congressional Republican.
Lundergan and Emmons were convicted of taking part in a conspiracy to direct illegal contributions to Grimes' Senate campaign.
Prosecutors alleged that Lundergan funneled more than $200,000 in illegal contributions to Grimes' campaign, either by paying for campaign services directly and not seeking reimbursements or by paying costs through Emmons.
During closing arguments, federal prosecutor Robert Heberle told jurors that Lundergan was involved in a "concerted scheme" to subvert federal election rules to benefit the Grimes campaign.
Lundergan's attorney acknowledged during the trial that mistakes were made, but added: "You don't convict people for mistakes." He said his client had no reason to make illegal contributions since his daughter's campaign received huge amounts of donations. The government, he said, treated Lundergan "like a heel in this case for trying to help his daughter's campaign."
The defendants are longtime friends and well-known political figures in Kentucky. Lundergan, a Lexington businessman, is an ex-state lawmaker and former state Democratic Party chairman. Emmons has worked on campaigns for offices from courthouses to Congress.
Grimes is one of the state's most prominent Democrats. She could not seek reelection as secretary of state this year because of term limits. She considered running for governor this year but decided against it.