— UPDATED: 2/13/15 10:18am
Read time: 6 minutes

GOP Slickster Pleads Guilty To Campaign Finance Violation

Tyler Harber not only illegally coordinated with a superPAC, he also skimmed funds off the top for himself.
GOP Slickster Pleads Guilty To Campaign Finance Violation

If you'd like a shining example of how Republicans win -- or try to win -- elections, look no further than Tyler Harber.

On Thursday, Tyler Harber pleaded guilty to one count of coordinated federal election contributions, and one count of making false statements to the FBI. This is the first time that coordination has been charged and convicted. Harber's transgressions were just too blatant to be overlooked.

Harber was the campaign manager for Republican candidate Chris Perkins, challenger to Rep. Gerry Connolly for his seat in 2012. In the process of running Perkins' campaign, Harber set up a super PAC and collected contributions amounting to nearly $600,000.

Harber ran both the super PAC and Perkins' campaign, which means he was coordinating activity between the two. Open Secrets:

According to federal court documents, Harber masterminded a complex scheme to coordinate a super PAC’s fundraising and expenditures in support of a Virginia candidate running for a U.S. House seat — all while working as the campaign manager for the candidate. Additionally, Harber acknowledged that he was personally paid a percentage of the super PAC’s expenditures, and he later lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents investigating the case. The documents do not name the campaign and super PAC involved, but based on the description of the events, OpenSecrets.org data indicates that Harber was working for Chris Perkins, a Republican candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly in Virginia’s Eleventh Congressional District.

Rooted in Republican values

Harber is well-schooled in the Morton Blackwell Leadership Institute Political Method, which is essentially one where you win at all costs. James O'Keefe is also a graduate of that particular institution. I like to call it the place where they train college students for their future in criminal politics.

According to his Leadership Institute bio, Harber serves as volunteer faculty now. He also claims to have been involved in the Ukrainian elections in 2014, as well as other elections in emerging democracies.

For a sense of how Harber was trained and trained others, consider the circumstances that yielded a guilty plea for lying to the FBI:

According to the statement of fact, Harber was eventually confronted by someone associated with Perkins, which led him to create a fake identity which he used to threaten the person challenging him. Later, when he was visited by two FBI agents in 2013, Harber said he had only met Perkins once, and had nothing to do with the creation of the super PAC.


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The Knox County investigation

This isn't the first time Harber has been investigated. From 2005 to 2007, he was under investigation in Tennessee for tampering with computers, stealing email, and making false statements. From the Knox News report of his resignation:

A Knox County Republican political operative and county employee resigned Thursday, saying he has been harassed by county law enforcement officers and become an enemy of the now-former chairman of the local party.

In a lengthy e-mail to Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Tyler Harber, 24, accused the Knox County Sheriff's Office of "vengeful and illegal actions" in recent days.

"Last night, after I was followed by undercover officers and then forcefully removed from my vehicle, I was handcuffed and confined in the back of a Knox County Sheriff's vehicle, officers refused to show proper identification, read me my rights, or notify me of why an illegal search of my vehicle was conducted, or why I was taken into custody. I decided that I could no longer endanger myself and my loved ones," the e-mail states.

Harber's letter follows the anonymous delivery Monday of copies of e-mails to Ragsdale that came from the personal account of former Knox County Republican Party Chairman Chad Tindell. The correspondence dealt with newly elected Chairman Brian Hornback's removal of paperwork and computers from Republican Party headquarters over the weekend.

Here's a video report from 2007, as the investigation was coming to a close:

Because there were no charges ultimately filed in the case, Harber was able to rebrand and repackage himself as a Republican consultant. He spent a couple of years in staunchly Republican polling outfits and then went out on his own.

Rebranding

In 2008, Harber incorporated as Harcom Strategies, LLC. This company was his vehicle for political consulting and public relations work. He was also a partner in Harden|Global, which billed itself as an international political consulting firm. According to his bio, he was responsible for running campaigns in emerging democracies.

Part of Harber's rebranding effort involved becoming a pundit for conservative media. Fox News quotes him often. Here's a quote from a 2013 report about Hillary Clinton:

Republican strategist Tyler Harber agrees the “organized movement” reflects Clinton’s strength among Democrats and independents, but argues it also shows the power of the next generation of super PAC politics.

Citizens can now form advocacy groups that can focus on specific candidates or races without interference or approval of the party,” Harber, a partner in Washington-based Harcom Strategies International, told FoxNews.com “This has added a new dynamic to campaigns against candidates that are perceived to be strong months or years in advance of the actual race. … But it remains to be seen if Clinton’s budding presidential race can be killed by a thousand cuts from small, uncoordinated organizations.”

Harden|Global also appears to be a firm where graduates of the Koch Institute were placed for further training. Andrew Ransom, who now works for surgeRED, was once an associate at Harden|Global.

There's a pattern here

Although he was not convicted for it, Harber's actions after he was confronted by an associate of Chris Perkins should not be overlooked. Creating a false identity to threaten that person while lying to the FBI might be more egregious than coordinating campaign expenditures. But there's even more.

According to Open Secrets, Harber siphoned money out of the super PAC to a company he and his mother owned. It was a significant amount:

Additionally, Harber admitted, he was involved with setting up and paying another company — based on FEC filings, probably Jamestown Associates*— to make an ad buy targeting Connolly. Harber also admitted that a company owned by his mother billed the super PAC for $138,000 in services that were never performed. Of that sum, $20,000 was given to his mother and Harber kept $118,000.

This operative, who has spoken with authority on conservative media and run campaigns in other countries has now illegally coordinated with a super PAC, lied to the FBI, created a false identity to threaten a whistleblower, and skimmed nearly $140,000 off the top for his own profit.

None of this is unusual. The only unusual part is that he was caught in the act and forced to plead guilty to it. Compare and contrast, for example, Harber's activities with Scott Walker's staff in Wisconsin. There isn't much daylight between the two, but Walker has managed to let his operatives take the fall without being tainted in the eyes of starstruck media.

Harber's fall is an up-close look at how Republicans operate their campaigns. There is far too much money and too little accountability. If getting elected is the only goal, there's a funder and an operative willing to undertake the dirty work, trained by Morton Blackwell's minions and farmed out by the Koch factory.

If this is how they operate here, what sort of havoc are they wreaking abroad?

*Note: My review of the expenditures suggests that the company was not Jamestown Associates, which is a fairly well-known firm used by many conservative super PACs. Instead, it appears that the expenditures paid to DOI, Inc appears to be the more likely candidate.

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