Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith, Missouri State Representative Mark Brown, and Nicholas Adams Plead Guilty to Federal Obstruction Charges
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 25, 2009|
ST. LOUIS, MO—Smith, Brown, and Adams all have pleaded guilty to federal obstruction charges involving their conspiracy and attempt to obstruct a Federal Election Commission proceeding from July 2004 through December 2007, Acting United States Attorney Michael W. Reap announced today. In addition, Smith and Adams pled guilty to federal obstruction charges involving their conspiracy and attempt to obstruct a Federal Grand Jury proceeding from June 1, 2009 through July 15, 2009.
During August 2004, a primary election was held to nominate candidates for the 3rd District of Missouri United States Congressional seat vacated by Richard Gephardt. Along with eight others, Russ Carnahan and Jeff Smith were Democratic candidates in that primary. Russ Carnahan won that primary election, with Jeff Smith placing second in the balloting among Democratic candidates. Russ Carnahan went on to win the general election for United States Congress during November 2004.
Jeff Smith’s campaign committee during the 2004 primary election was known as “Friends of Jeff Smith”. Steve Brown was a close and personal friend of Jeff Smith. During 2004 Brown, on leave as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri, served as campaign manager for Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon during his successful campaign for Missouri Attorney General. Steve Brown also provided substantial support, advice, and assistance to Jeff Smith and the Friends of Jeff Smith committee during Smith’s 2004 campaign for the Democratic nomination for United States Congress.
According to the documents filed with the court at the time of the pleas, during July 2004, an individual, referred to as “John Doe,” approached individual members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including the committee’s Treasurer, Nicholas Adams, the committee’s Communications/Press Director, Artie Harris and the committee’s Campaign Manager, Clay Haynes, and offered to assist Smith’s campaign by producing and distributing negative campaign advertisements aimed at Russ Carnahan. John Doe was affiliated with an organization known as Voters for Truth.
Smith and members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee discussed and agreed with John Doe’s plan to produce and distribute the negative campaign advertisements aimed at Russ Carnahan. Steve Brown was introduced to John Doe by members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, and at Smith’s request, Brown agreed to solicit funds from Smith’s donors for John Doe and Voters for Truth, for the production and distribution of the negative campaign advertisements. Steve Brown did, in fact, solicit and obtain substantial funds for John Doe and Voters for Truth from several of Smith’s donors, and he also provided John Doe with $5,000 cash of his own personal funds.
Members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including Nick Adams, Artie Harris, and Clay Haynes, personally met with and spoke on the telephone with John Doe on several occasions in order to discuss the negative campaign advertisements aimed at Russ Carnahan. With the knowledge and agreement of Smith, they provided John Doe with information to be used in the advertisements and mailing address lists for their distribution.
Using the funds provided by Brown, and the information provided by Adams, Artie Harris, and Clay Haynes, John Doe and Voters for Truth contracted with a direct mail company in Cleveland, Ohio for the production and mail distribution of a postcard containing negative information about Russ Carnahan, sometimes referred to as the “Miss More Work” mailing. On July 23, 2004, approximately 25,000 of the negative advertisement postcards were mailed to Missouri’s 3rd District resident voters. The postcards did not accurately identify the individuals or organizations involved in their production and distribution, and did not make any mention of Voters for Truth, John Doe, Jeff Smith, or the Friends of Jeff Smith committee.
Thereafter, the Russ Carnahan for Congress committee, acting upon information it had obtained, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the Friends of Jeff Smith committee had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and Commission regulations relative to the printing and distribution of the negative advertisement postcards. The Federal Election Commission opened an investigation.
On September 8, 2004, Jeff Smith submitted a false sworn affidavit to the Federal Election Commission, falsely representing he had no knowledge of who was responsible for the postcard, nor who paid for the mailing.
During November 2006, John Doe received a subpoena to testify before the Federal Election Commission. John Doe’s testimony was scheduled for November 16, 2006. On November 14, 2006, with Jeff Smith’s knowledge, Steve Brown met with John Doe at a health and social club in St. Louis in an effort to convince John Doe not to testify about Brown and Smith’s knowledge and involvement in the anti-Carnahan postcards. Shortly after that meeting, Brown and Smith discussed their ongoing concerns that John Doe was going to disclose their conduct to the Federal Election Commission, and agreed they should offer John Doe the opportunity to work on Smith’s political committee if John Doe kept them out of the Federal Election Commission investigation. Steve Brown had a second meeting with John Doe where they discussed the possibility of John Doe getting future work from Brown and Smith if he kept them out of the FEC investigation. Two days later, Doe appeared before the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., and gave sworn testimony concerning the allegations raised by the Carnahan committee. Consistent with his discussions with Brown, John Doe made numerous false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and failed to identify Brown, any members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, Adams, or Jeff Smith as being involved in the funding, production, and/or distribution of the anti Carnahan postcards. John Doe falsely testified that he had been retained by an anonymous individual who provided John Doe with the print copy, artwork, and mailing addresses for the anti Carnahan postcard, and that he was paid in cash by this anonymous individual for his work in producing and distributing the postcards. John Doe falsely testified that Voters for Truth was not his organization, that he had simply been retained by Voters for Truth to do polling work, and that Voters for Truth was not involved in the anti- Carnahan postcards.
Following John Doe’s testimony before the FEC, Brown, Smith and Adams had numerous telephone conversations amongst themselves and with other members of the Friends of Jeff Smith Committee, including Artie Harris, about what they should say if interviewed by the Federal Election Commission. During these conversations it was agreed that everyone would deny involvement in the production, funding, and distribution of the anti Carnahan postcards, and deny knowledge of John Doe’s conduct in that regard.
On March 1, 2007, Artie Harris was interviewed by the Federal Election Commission and falsely denied his involvement. Harris told the Federal Election Commission that both he and Adams were leery of John Doe’s true agenda. Harris acknowledged that he had provided John Doe with a copy of some publicly available information the campaign had already compiled on Russ Carnahan, but that he did not recall any further conversations with John Doe. Shortly following his interview by the Federal Election Commission, Artie Harris died. On March 15, 2007, Nick Adams was interviewed by the Federal Election Commission and also falsely denied any involvement in the production, funding, and distribution of those postcards.
On December 10, 2007, the General Counsel for the Federal Election Commission issued its final report recommending that the investigation into the Carnahan committee allegations concerning the 2004 postcards be closed, and that no action be taken against the Friends of Jeff Smith committee or any individuals. The report noted that John Doe’s testimony had been vague, contradictory and lacking in credibility. The report noted that Jeff Smith and members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including Adams and Artie Harris, denied any firsthand knowledge of Voters for Truth or involvement in the distribution of the postcard, and went on to state that the circumstances suggest that John Doe paid for the postcards with his own personal funds and created Voters for Truth to conceal his involvement on the negative attack on Carnahan.
Following the issuance of the December 10, 2007 final report, Bown and Smith met to review and discuss the report’s findings, and agreed that they “got lucky” that the Federal Election Commission had not been able to uncover their involvement in the anti-Carnahan postcards.
Additionally, as admitted to by Smith and Adams relative to Count II of the Information; during January 2009, the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI, acting upon newly discovered information, opened a federal criminal investigation into the original allegations raised by the Carnahan Campaign Committee and investigated by the FEC, as well as to determine whether any individuals had attempted to obstruct that Federal Election Commission proceeding. As charged in the Information, the object of the conspiracy was to obstruct a Federal Grand Jury proceeding by preventing the flow of information to federal law enforcement authorities through false statements and false representations.
On June 1, 2009, Jeff Smith and Steve Brown had a telephone conversation to discuss the possibility that John Doe was cooperating with federal law enforcement and providing federal law enforcement with information regarding the 2004 postcard mailing and subsequent investigation by the FEC. Smith discussed how they should respond if interviewed by federal law enforcement. Regarding the postcard, Smith acknowledged that Nick Adams and Artie Harris, both officials of his 2004 U.S. Congressional campaign committee, had handled the coordination between his committee and John Doe. Smith further discussed what potential evidence John Doe might have against him, and what he could say about it to federal law enforcement. During the telephone conversation, Smith also acknowledged that he knew Brown and some of his donors had given John Doe money to produce the anti-Carnahan postcard. Smith urged Brown how to respond if interviewed by law enforcement.
On June 17, 2009, Smith, Adams and Brown met at Smith’s residence to further discuss the possibility that John Doe was cooperating with federal law enforcement. During the meeting Smith acknowledged that he knew that Adams and Artie Harris were working with John Doe on the postcard, and that Clay Haynes had given John Doe the campaign committee’s mailing address list. Adams again acknowledged that he had lied to the FEC during March 2007 when asked about John Doe. Smith told them that John Doe would not be believed by federal law enforcement, saying that “Doe against the three of us is not even a contest.”
On June 30, 2009, Smith was interviewed by FBI Agents. During the interview, Smith made numerous false statements and false representations. The same day Adams was also interviewed and made numerous false statements and false representations as well. After the FBI interviews that morning Smith, Adams, and Brown met to discuss the interviews, and to discuss what Brown should say if he were to be interviewed by the FBI. Smith and Adams urged Brown to tell the FBI that Artie Harris, deceased, was the only one who had any contact with John Doe.
Finally, in order to conceal their future discussions from the FBI, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Smith and Adams agreed to purchase and communicate only through “pay as you go” cellular telephones.
“The fact that Senator Jeff Smith, Rep. Steve Brown and Nicholas Adams all pled guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice is further evidence that the FBI has zero tolerance for public corruption,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in St. Louis. “Politicians are supposed to serve the people who elected them, not their own self-interests. What Senator Smith, Rep. Brown and Adams did is nothing more than old fashioned corruption.”
Jeff Smith, 35, St. Louis City, and Nicholas Adams, 29, University City, MO, pleaded guilty to two felony counts fo conspiracy to obstruct justice. Mark Steven Brown, 42, Clayton, MO, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. All three defendants appeared before United States District Judge Carol E. Jackson, in federal District Court, in St. Louis.
Each count of conspiracy to obstruct justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. Sentencings have been set for November 10, 2009.
Reap commended the work on the case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith, who is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.