Ex-state treasurer forced to acknowledge more abuse of power
HARRISBURG — Disgraced ex-Pennsylvania state treasurer Rob McCord was forced to acknowledge Monday in federal court that he had abused his office's powers to try to reward campaign contributors in more ways than previously revealed by prosecutors in McCord's extortion case two years ago.
The revelations came as a prosecutor confronted McCord in the trial of a wealthy investment adviser, Richard Ireland, who is accused of trying to bribe McCord with campaign contributions.
The admissions were eye-opening, since a prosecutor forced them from a cooperating witness, McCord, who resigned as Pennsylvania's elected treasurer two years ago after being ensnared in the FBI's wide-ranging pay-to-play investigation of Pennsylvania state government.
McCord, 58, was testifying for the fourth and final day in Ireland's trial, during which jurors listened to hours of Ireland's conversations secretly recorded by McCord for the FBI in his final weeks as treasurer.
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Consiglio, McCord acknowledged that he had taken various steps or made various offers to help campaign contributors, or potential contributors, violating the law.
That included awarding a $50 million investment contract to a campaign donor who hid their connection to the contribution by giving through a third party. It also included promising to help a donor's son network in the investment world and potentially land a state investment contract, and offering to slow down a state payment to the competitor of a donor.
“I abused the treasurer's power, more than once,” McCord told Consiglio.
According to Consiglio, some of those conversations were conducted for McCord by a onetime top aide to Democratic former Gov. Ed Rendell, John Estey, who made secret recordings of McCord for the FBI while cooperating in his own criminal case.
Those details had not been included in McCord's extortion case that became public in early 2015. McCord was caught on tape in 2014 attempting to use his position as state treasurer to strong-arm donations to his failed gubernatorial campaign. McCord pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion and is awaiting sentencing.
The exchange between Consiglio and McCord followed Ireland's lawyer Reid Weingarten's questioning of McCord.
In his questioning, Weingarten said Ireland made no effort in the recorded conversations to connect a certain campaign contribution to any particular effort by McCord to deliver new state investment business sought by Ireland. Weingarten suggested that Ireland would have given the cash to McCord, as a longtime friend, whether or not McCord had delivered the investment business sought by Ireland.
Weingarten said it was McCord, and not Ireland, who had raised the subject of campaign contributions every time it came up in their taped conversations.
“That's my impression, too,” McCord responded.
At his next opportunity to question McCord, Consiglio asked McCord whether he had told the FBI, even before recording conversations with Ireland, that Ireland had connected campaign contributions to what McCord could do for him as treasurer.
“Certainly that was the nature of the relationship,” McCord responded.