Treasurer McCord to plead guilty in campaign finance case
Jan. 31, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Rob McCord, who resigned abruptly Friday after serving six years as Pennsylvania's elected treasurer, plans to plead guilty to federal charges accusing him of using his office to threaten potential campaign donors during his failed gubernatorial primary race last year.
McCord, 55, resigned a day after he announced that he would step down in two weeks without giving a reason. But in a video released by his lawyers Friday, the Democrat apologized, gave details of what sparked a federal investigation into him and said he accepts responsibility for his actions.
"I stepped over the line by trying to take advantage of the fact that two potential contributors hoped to continue to do business with the commonwealth and by developing talking points to remind them that I could make things difficult for them," McCord said in the two-and-a-half minute video. "I essentially said that the potential contributors should not risk making an enemy of the state treasurer. Clearly that was wrong, I was wrong. It was a mistake. I stand ready to pay the price for that mistake."
McCord's lawyers, Robert Welsh and Catherine Recker, said McCord will plead guilty to certain federal charges, but they would not specify which charges those would be or whether McCord will face jail time. The charges, which could be filed as early as next week, stem from the incident last spring, they said.
They would not identify the recipients of McCord's threat.
The U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg has declined to comment.
McCord is the second statewide official in Pennsylvania facing some sort of official scrutiny. Attorney General Kathleen Kane potentially faces charges for allegedly giving secret investigative material to a newspaper.
McCord's story began unfolding Thursday when the former venture capitalist announced that he would step down Feb. 12 after six years in the treasurer's office. He gave no reason for leaving his post, saying only that it was time for him to return to the private sector. It soon emerged that McCord was under scrutiny by federal investigators.
On Friday, McCord said he had not expected news of the investigation to get out until after Feb. 12, and as a result, he resigned immediately.
"I'm now deeply concerned that my continuing in office even for a day might interfere with the operation of the office of the treasurer," he said.
The Treasury Department is the custodian of state funds, investing billions of dollars, sometimes through outside investment managers it hires, and paying the state government's workers and bills in tens of millions of transactions per year. The treasurer also sits on boards that have enormous power over how potentially hundreds of billions of pension, insurance and infrastructure dollars are spent or managed.
McCord was elected in 2008 and 2012 to four-year terms in the treasurer's office and ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, losing in an expensive and bruising primary race to Gov. Tom Wolf.
He came in a distant third in a four-person race after raising and spending nearly $9 million. He contributed $2.2 million of his own money to the cause, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. Wolf won after spending nearly $15 million in the primary, including $10 million from his own wallet. All told, the four Democratic candidates spent more than $36 million on the primary.
In his last campaign finance report filed with the state, McCord listed a campaign debt of $2.2 million to himself.
The Treasury Department's chief counsel, Christopher Craig, was sworn in Friday as executive deputy state treasurer and given the full powers of the treasurer. It is now up to Wolf to nominate someone to serve the final two years of McCord's term.
In a statement Friday, Wolf called it a "sad day" for the state and McCord's family and said he would act quickly to send a nominee to the Senate for confirmation.
"As elected leaders we should be stewards of democracy and we should act to protect hardworking taxpayers, not take advantage of them," Wolf said. "This type of behavior leads to the erosion of the public's trust — it is simply unacceptable."
Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo contributed to this report.