State Treasurer Resigns and Pleads Guilty to Attempted Extortion

Originally published on February 21, 2015, at NationofChange.org

After abruptly resigning from office last month, former Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert “Rob” McCord pleaded guilty this week to two counts of attempted extortion. While running for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2014, McCord attempted to extort campaign contributions from a law firm and a property management company by threatening economic retaliation if they refused to contribute substantial donations to his campaign. Presented with the evidence against him, McCord immediately announced his resignation and began cooperating with law enforcement officials.

Inducted into office on January 2, 2009, McCord served as Pennsylvania State Treasurer until his sudden resignation on January 30, 2015. While serving as Treasurer of Pennsylvania, McCord launched a failed campaign to run for Governor in 2014. During the campaign, McCord abused his position by attempting to extort contributions from firms by threatening to disrupt their financial dealings with the state.

In April and May 2014, McCord targeted the managing partner of a Philadelphia law firm and a Western Pennsylvania property management company for campaign contributions. Attempting to extort a $25,000 donation from a Philadelphia law firm, McCord threatened to financially harm the managing partner by interfering with the firm’s multiple state contracts. Court records do not reveal the name of the law firm or whether they acquiesced to McCord’s demands.

During the same time, McCord attempted to extort $100,000 in campaign contributions from a Western Pennsylvania property management company. Collecting state benefits approved in part by McCord, the property management company received messages from McCord threatening to cut off their funding if they refused to make sizeable donations to his campaign. He also informed the company that the contributions need not be written in the company’s name.

Unbeknownst to McCord, federal agents and cooperating witnesses began recording their conversations with him. After losing the election for Governor of Pennsylvania, McCord learned that the FBI had launched an investigation into his attempts to extort campaign contributions. On January 30, McCord formally resigned from office.

In a video statement released by his attorney, McCord publicly apologized for his actions. While announcing his resignation, McCord confessed to his crimes and declared his intention to plead guilty.

“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 admitted. “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 pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion on Tuesday. He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. A pre-sentence conference is scheduled for June 29.

“As elected leaders we should be stewards of democracy and we should act to protect hardworking taxpayers, not take advantage of them,” stated Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “This type of behavior leads to the erosion of the public’s trust — it is simply unacceptable.”

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