Super PAC manager pleads guilty to illegally funneling money to bolster candidate's campaign

A Virginia man who managed a losing congressional campaign while running a Super PAC has pleaded guilty to illegally funneling money from the PAC to bolster his candidate's campaign.

Federal prosecutors said it is the first time a person has been convicted of illegally coordinating campaign contributions between political committees.

Tyler Harber, 34, of Alexandria was campaign manager and political consultant for Chris Perkins, who ran in 2012 as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Gerry Connolly in a northern Virginia district. Harber was also a frequent guest on cable news talk shows, appearing as a Republican pundit or strategist.

At a plea hearing Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Harber admitted causing the PAC, which is not named in court records, to spend $325,000 in ads targeting Connolly.

Super PACs can solicit and spend unlimited amounts of funds, but cannot coordinate their activity with specific congressional candidates. They were born in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted federal limits on contributions to and expenditures by independent political organizations. Those groups can spend as they see fit to try and sway voters, but cannot coordinate their spending with candidates.

In his plea deal, Harber also pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, denying that he knew Perkins or campaigned for him when, in fact, he served as his campaign manager.

At Thursday's plea Hearing, Harber said little except to confirm his guilty plea, and to ensure that the terms of his plea deal will prevent his family members from being prosecuted — an assurance that prosecutors provided.

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea deal, Barber and his family profited from the coordinated campaign activity. It states that Harber received a $9,100 commission on the $325,000 ad buy from the Super Pac that targeted Connolly. It also states that Harber and his family used $138,000 of the money taken in by the PAC — about 23 percent of the PAC's entire receipts — for personal use.

Perkins, who lost to Connolly by more than 20 points in 2012, did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment. The court documents do not allege he participated in any wrongdoing.

The two counts to which Harber pleaded guilty each carry a maximum of five years in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing in June.

Harber's plea deal also requires that he cooperate with prosecutors in what was described in court as an ongoing investigation.