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Ex-Pa. Treasurer McCord Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Ex-Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty Tuesday to two federal counts of attempted extortion, admitting that he tried to use his office's position to strong-arm state contractors into donating money to his failed gubernatorial campaign.

The plea capped a steep and fast fall from public office for the once-promising candidate for governor. During the hearing in a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, McCord acknowledged the plea agreement that prosecutors filed Feb. 2. He declined comment to reporters afterward.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III set a private presentencing hearing for June 29, but did not set a sentencing date. The maximum penalty for each extortion charge is 20 years in prison.

In court, McCord admitted that he tried to use his position as treasurer to threaten a Philadelphia-based law firm and a western Pennsylvania-based property management firm into donating money to his campaign last spring. The investigation has fueled speculation in political circles about what led investigators to record McCord's conversations, what took so long to charge him and whether McCord cooperated against anybody else in the political or finance communities.

McCord, 55, was serving a second term as treasurer when he announced Jan. 29 he planned step down in two weeks and return to the private sector. News reports quickly emerged that he was under federal investigation and, a day later, he confirmed that he faced federal charges and made his resignation immediate.

Papers filed in federal court several days later described phone calls apparently recorded by investigators. In them, McCord suggested to a fundraiser, a lawyer and a senior official at the law firm that the firms could suffer the loss of state government business if they did not contribute a sufficient amount of money to his campaign.

The firms were not identified.