One current and three former Department of Agriculture employees were charged Tuesday with conspiring to pressure subordinates and other workers into making $3,200 in contributions to a Democratic political action committee during the 1992 presidential campaign.
The four men, all mid-level employees, were charged by the Justice Department with collecting the contributions on behalf of the Farmers and Ranchers ‘92 Political Action Committee, and then preparing a list of employees who should receive promotions or other “special consideration” under a Democratic administration.
According to papers filed in U.S. District Court, the four employees were longtime, active supporters of the Democratic Party who believed that electing a Democratic president in 1992 would enhance their careers. To ensure that happened, the men solicited contributions from other agriculture employees, mostly subordinates, who they knew were loyal Democrats.
The men then allegedly suggested to the subordinates that they would receive favorable treatment in the future if they made contributions. They also allegedly told other workers that the contributions might keep them from being demoted if the Democrats won.
Sometimes, the men collected the checks and sent them to the PAC themselves. Other times, they gave contributors the PAC’s address so the employees could mail the checks themselves, according to the criminal information.
Federal employees are prohibited by law from making or receiving political contributions on federal property.
The charges were filed with each of the defendant’s consent, usually a signal that a guilty plea or a cooperation agreement of some kind is in the works. A Justice Department source said guilty pleas are expected but have not yet been scheduled.
The defendants worked at the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, which is now known as the Farmers Services Administration. They are: Jack L. Webb, 59, of Haymarket, Va.; Jeffress A. Wells, 60, of North Carolina; Jack S. Forlines, 63, also of North Carolina; and Grady L. Bilberry, 48, of Bowie, Md. Only Bilberry still works for the department. None was a political appointee.