Updated at: 05/31/2013 6:06 PM
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
(AP) ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A northern Virginia businessman was sentenced Friday to more than two years in prison for illegally funneling nearly $200,000 to Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns in 2006 and 2008.
William Danielczyk, 51, of Oakton pleaded guilty in February to violating campaign-finance laws by reimbursing employees of his company, Galen Capital, and others who were recruited to attend fundraisers and make contributions Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns.
There are no allegations Clinton or her campaign acted improperly.
The sentence of 28 months was roughly half of the five-year maximum sought by prosecutors in U.S. District Court. Danielczyk’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that many similar violations of the campaign-finance laws had resulted only in probation.
In imposing his sentence, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris compared Danielczyk’s case to defense lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, who received 27 months for illegally funneling more than $380,000 to House members controlling the Pentagon’s budget.
Arguing for a lighter sentence, defense lawyer Abbe Lowell said Danielczyk’s case differed from more serious violations in part because Danielczyk did not seek any special favors in exchange for his fundraising efforts.
But prosecutor Eric Gibson disputed that, citing grand jury testimony that Danielczyk had told others he hoped to land an ambassadorship and saw fundraising as a means to achieve it.
Lowell also urged the judge to tread lightly given the fact that campaign-finance laws are in flux and courts are still sorting out the implications of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which lifted many restrictions on corporate spending in political elections. Indeed, for a brief time, Cacheris had tossed out some of the charges against Danielczyk, ruling that under Citizens United, the campaign finance law banning corporations like Galen from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional.
An appellate court later overruled Cacheris, saying Citizens United gives corporations a free hand to contribute to campaign activities by independent groups but not directly to candidates themselves.
At Friday’s hearing, Danielczyk did not apologize for his conduct but said he was angry with himself.
"I’ve always tried to lead by example, and I obviously didn’t do that here," he said.
The scheme was first exposed more than five years ago by The Wall Street Journal. At the time, Danielczyk lied and said he had not reimbursed people for making contributions. Prosecutor Eric Gibson said the lies to the media were just a small part of Danielczyk’s efforts to hide his scheme, including falsely describing reimbursements to his straw donors as bonuses and "consulting fees" and swapping out a laptop computer with incriminating evidence that he was obliged to turn over to the FBI.
A co-defendant, former Galen executive Eugene Biagi, 78, was sentenced Friday to probation. Under his plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than probation to the judge.
Biagi’s lawyer, Todd Richman, said his client actually disliked Clinton and engaged in the scheme only because Danielczyk, his friend and employer, told him to.
"The chance that he would have engaged in this on his own is zero ... certainly not for Hillary Clinton," Richman said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)