- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Ex-Pennsylvania state treasurer Rob McCord had a question for a suburban Philadelphia investment adviser who sought his help getting state pension fund business: Could McCord get $100,000 if he delivered another $175 million in pension fund or treasury business?

That proposition, heard in investment adviser Richard Ireland’s trial in federal court on Thursday, drove their conversations toward the end of the 2014 while McCord was wearing a wire for the FBI in a wide-ranging pay-to-play investigation of Pennsylvania state government.

Ireland, 80, is accused of trying to bribe McCord with more than $500,000 in secret campaign contributions in what prosecutors call part of a yearslong scheme to land lucrative contracts to invest taxpayer dollars.

Ireland’s lawyers counter that McCord used Ireland, not the other way around, and that Ireland never sought an illegal exchange as he advocated for legitimate business interests.

One meeting, on Nov. 25, 2014 at Ireland’s Valley Forge offices, came as Ireland had been pressing McCord to help get the board overseeing Pennsylvania’s $26 billion state employees’ pension fund to put $100 million into an index fund created and licensed by Ireland.

It also came after Ireland had pledged $200,000 to help McCord make up some of the $2 million-plus of his own money McCord had plunged into his failed campaign for governor in that year’s Democratic Party primary election.

That was when McCord rolled out a fresh proposition: $175 million in investments that would mean more fees for Ireland and more help for McCord lightening his campaign debt.

“Would it be fair for me to ask you for an extra hundred?” McCord asks.

“Well, let’s work on it,” Ireland responds. A few seconds later, he adds, “You’ve been a great friend. I’m with you a hundred percent. And, you know … like we tell everybody, we’re on Broad Street.”

“Right,” McCord responds.

“That simple,” Ireland says.

“Two-way street,” McCord says.

Thursday was the second day of testimony by McCord, who is cooperating with federal authorities after getting caught on tape in 2014 attempting to use his position as state treasurer to strong-arm donations to his gubernatorial campaign. McCord resigned two years ago before pleading guilty to two counts of attempted extortion.

McCord is awaiting sentencing, and Ireland’s lawyers say McCord is trying to get someone else, in this case Ireland, to do his prison time.

Jurors heard hours of secretly recorded conversations in court Thursday, some of it rambling through the world of finance and politics, including the networks, dealings and scandals of politicians and the politically connected.

The FBI also eavesdropped on two months of McCord’s calls earlier in 2014, while he was still running for governor.

By that point, prosecutors say, Ireland had already been funneling cash for six years to McCord’s campaigns through friends, family members, businesses and employees of his business.

Ireland and his partner in VFIM Corp., Brian G. McElwee, shared in millions of dollars in Treasury Department fees paid to client firms since 2000. They were also well-known campaign donors, giving more than $1 million combined to political groups, committees and candidates since the late 1990s, according to state and federal records.

Another former Pennsylvania state treasurer, Barbara Hafer, is facing federal charges in the investigation. She is accused of making false statements to federal agents to conceal more than $500,000 in payments by Ireland’s firm after she left office in 2005.

In one of their conversations played Thursday, Ireland told McCord that he had raised $500,000 to help Hafer start a consulting company.

“We put her in business,” he said.

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