By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Former Pennsylvania state treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty to two counts of extortion on Tuesday in charges relating to his failed run to become the Democratic candidate for state governor last year.
McCord, 55, admitted to repeatedly trying to extort upwards of $25,000 from an unnamed Philadelphia law firm and $100,000 from a property management firm in western Pennsylvania that both did considerable business with the state.
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He threatened to hurt their businesses through his position as state treasurer if they did not contribute the money to his campaign for governor in the spring of 2014, according to the federal prosecutors' account.
McCord spoke only to enter the plea in the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.
Judge John Jones III released McCord, who lives in suburban Philadelphia, on his own recognizance.
McCord is due to be sentenced later this year.
The maximum sentence is up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Michael Consiglio, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, said he will recommend leniency to the court because of McCord's acceptance of responsibility and continued cooperation.
McCord, who holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, was elected treasurer in 2008 after a successful career as a venture capitalist, and re-elected in 2012.
He sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2014, lending his campaign $2 million of his personal funds. But he came in third behind Tom Wolf, the winner, and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. Wolf was then elected governor.
McCord stayed on as treasurer until earlier this month, when he announced he would resign the job a few days before he was formally charged.
Christopher Craig, the former Treasury Department general counsel, is filling in as treasurer until Governor Wolf can appoint a successor and have that person confirmed by the Senate.
McCord did not respond to reporters' shouted questions as he was led out of the courtroom by federal marshals to fill out paperwork prior to his release.
Robert Welsh Jr., his lawyer, would not respond to questions about McCord's motivation in shaking down potential contributors. He said that would come out during the pre-sentence investigation.
"Please wait and see," Welsh said. "You will have a lot to write about."
(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Jonathan Allen, Bill Trott, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert)