Democratic consultant Dale Emmons was found guilty of six felony counts of making illegal campaign contributions to the 2014 Senate campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes Thursday after a nearly month-long trial in federal court in Kentucky.
The jury deliberated for less than half a day before reaching its guilty verdict.
The defense called just two witnesses — former Lundergan Grimes aide Matt Daley and former FBI agent Clay Mason — while the government spent almost four weeks laying out its case in testimony and documents against Emmons, a former president of the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC), and Jerry Lundergan, father of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. The two men were indicted in August 2018.
The case hinged on the testimony of Jonathan Hurst, who managed Lundergan Grimes’ 2014 Senate campaign and worked on her secretary of state runs in 2011 and 2015. He was originally a target of the federal investigation but was granted immunity to testify against Lundergan and Emmons.
The defense attempted to discredit Hurst, with lawyers for Lundergan calling him a “snake" and "master deceiver” during the trial, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The defense also tried to paint Hurst as the kind of manager who would tell staff what they “can and can’t put in the campaign refrigerator.”
In the end, jurors believed Hurst, who testified about how he saw Lundergan skirting campaign finance laws starting in 2011. Hurst testified that Lundergan sent him $150,000 for costs incurred on Lundergan Grimes’ 2011 secretary of state campaign.
It should have been reimbursed by the campaign, but Hurst said he later noticed in the state filings that the amount hadn’t been paid back to GCL. Asked why he didn’t report the illegality, he replied: "I wasn't going to report my own client.”
During the 2015 secretary of state campaign, Hurst said the illegal contributions were more explicit. After a strategy meeting that October, Hurst testified that he returned him to Louisville to find a bag with $20,000 and a check for $25,000 from S.R. Holdings, Lundergan’s company, on his couch. The memo line on the check read: "Boy Scouts."
He still had both in his possession when federal agents came knocking in January 2016.
Guthrie True, Lundergan’s attorney, tried to portray Hurst as a greedy consultant by showing the jury he’d marked up a six-figure mailing during the 2011 campaign for a 100 percent profit. Hurst said that True’s estimate was incorrect. He also tried to portray Hurst as a rival to Emmons.
The government said that Emmons received $119,145.45 from Lundergan’s company for things like video production, robocalls and consulting work to support Lundergan Grimes’ 2014 Senate run against Senate Majority Mitch Connell (R).
In response, the defense played up Emmons role running the coordinated campaign, “claiming that Emmons was only receiving a stipend from Lundergan because he was ‘trying out’ for to be the director of the coordinated campaign,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. They also said that Lundergan made honest mistakes trying to help his daughter.
Emmons was convicted of one count of conspiracy and making corporate campaign contributions, two counts of causing the submission of false statements, and two counts of causing the falsification of documents with the intent to obstruct and impede.
Lundergan was convicted on all charges: one count of conspiracy, one count of making corporate campaign contributions, four counts of causing the submission of false statements to the FEC, and four counts of causing the falsification of documents with the intent to obstruct and impede a matter within the FEC’s jurisdiction.
True told the Courier-Journal they plan to appeal.
Emmons and his lawyer did not immediately respond to C&E’s request for comment. Lundergan faces a maximum sentence of 110 years and a fine of $2.5 million. Emmons faces 60 years in prison.
Lundergan and Emmons left the courtroom Thursday, and are free until their sentencing hearing on Jan. 22, 2020.